The new rules, which came into effect on May 26 mandate that significant social media intermediaries including messaging platforms like Whatsapp will have to trace the first originator of a message which has been flagged by the law enforcement agencies. The company had challenged the Rules arguing that the new mandate would require it to compromise with user privacy and break end to end encryption.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh issued a notice to the ministry of electronics and information technology to file reply on the petition as well as the application for stay on the implementation of the Rules.
The matter has been listed for next hearing on October 22.
WhatsApp LLC has urged the high court to declare Rule 4(2) of the Intermediary Rules as unconstitutional, ultra vires to the IT Act and illegal and sought that no criminal liability be imposed on it for any alleged non-compliance with Rule 4(2) which requires enabling the identification of the first originator of information.
WhatsApp said the traceability provision is unconstitutional and against the fundamental right to privacy.
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As per data cited by the government, India has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 41 crore Facebook subscribers, 21 crore Instagram users, while 1.75 crore account holders are on microblogging platform Twitter.
The government has maintained that the requirement of traceability will be used only in cases of serious crimes and when all other legal means have been exhausted. They also said that new IT Rules are meant to make social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and more accountable to their users in India.