Centre says it respects Right to Privacy, dismisses WhatsApp’s claim over new rules

    27-May-2021   
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The Central Government on Tuesday issued a clarification on WhatsApp's lawsuit against new IT rules saying the none of the measures proposed by India will impact the normal functioning of WhatsApp in any manner whatsoever and will not impact the users. The government said it respects the right of privacy and has no intention to violate it.
 
"When WhatsApp is required to disclose the origin of a particular message. Such requirements are only in case when the message is required for prevention, Investigation or punishment of very serious offences related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order, or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material," said Ministry of Electronics & IT clarified in a statement.
 
The Centre further said that no fundamental right, including the right to privacy, is absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions. "The requirements in the intermediary guidelines pertaining to the first originator of information are an example of such a reasonable restriction," it added.
 
The UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada require social media firms to allow for legal interception, it said.
 
"What India is asking for is significantly much less than what some of the other countries have demanded."
 
The IT ministry also said that the WhatsApp's challenge to intermediary guidelines was an unfortunate attempt to prevent norms from coming into effect. "It is in public interest that who started the mischief leading to such crime must be detected and punished. We cannot deny as to how in cases of mob lynching and riots etc. repeated WhatsApp messages are circulated and recirculated whose content are already in public domain. Hence the role of who originated is very important," it further said.
 
WhatsApp has filed a case in the Delhi High Court against the Indian government, seeking to block the new IT rules that come into effect from Wednesday, 26 May.
 
According to the reports, WhatsApp has filed a petition against the Government of India on May 25 in the Delhi High Court protesting against the new IT rules that require “significant social media intermediaries” like WhatsApp to “trace” the origin of particular messages sent on the service.
 
It is to noted that as per the new IT Rules 2021, the digital media platforms will now need to have a larger grievance redressal mechanism, which will include a Chief Compliance Officer, a Nodal Contact Person and a Resident Grievance Officer. Besides, all social media platforms are mandated to publish these details on their apps and websites and explain to users the mechanism in place to make a complaint against any content on the platform. These complaints need to be acknowledged within 24 hours of receipt and these complaints need to be actioned upon within a period of 15 days from the date of receipt.