New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday adjourned the hearing, till August 27, on the pleas by WhatsApp and Facebook challenging the central government's Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 that would require messaging services to "trace" the origin of particular messages sent on the service.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh adjourned the matter after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought adjournment.
WhatsApp has earlier moved the Delhi High Court challenging the IT Rules, 2021, that would require messaging services to "trace" the origin of particular messages sent on the service.
In a statement, WhatsApp said "requiring messaging apps to 'trace' chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break the end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people's Right to Privacy." WhatsApp's spokesperson said, "We have consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of our users. In the meantime, we will also continue to engage with the Government of India on practical solutions aimed at keeping people safe, including responding to valid legal requests for the information available to us." On February 25, the Centre framed the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, in the exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011, which will come into effect from May 26. The new guidelines issued by the government of India mandated a grievance redressal system for over the top (OTT) and digital portals in the country.
Briefing the media about the new rules on February 25, then Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that though the government welcomes criticism and the right to dissent, "but it is very important for the users of social media to have a forum to raise their grievance against the misuse of social media".
Under the new rules, social media platforms will have to have a grievance redressal mechanism and they will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and disposal in 15 days. The government had said that if there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly women - about exposed private parts of individuals or nudity or sexual act or impersonation etc - social media platforms will be required to remove that within 24 hours after a complaint is made.
As per the guidelines, first, the social media platforms will have to have a chief compliance officer residing in India responsible for ensuring compliance with the act and the rules.
Second is a nodal contact person who should reside in India for 24X7 coordination with law enforcement agencies. Social media platforms have to appoint a resident grievance officer who shall perform the grievance redressal mechanism as indicated. They also will have to publish a monthly report about the number of complaints received and the status of redressal.