Supreme Court directs Madras HC not to pass final order in WhatsApp traceability case


In a reprieve to Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp’s message encryption case, the Supreme Court has said that Madras High Court can continue to hear the case but cannot pass a final order on the matter.

Last week, Facebook had filed a Transfer Petition seeking a transfer of the case before the HCs of Madras, Delhi, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh to the apex court.

WhatsApp’s lawyer Kapil Sibal said that the traceability issue was a policy issue. Therefore, it couldn’t be decided by a High Court as the order may lead to changes in the product globally.

The case is important for the messaging platform as it is sought to change the platform features.

WhatsApp has been facing a petition filed in July 2018 by Antony Clement Rubin and Janani Krishnamurthy in the Madras High Court.

The petition sought a special order against WhatsApp to declare the linking of Aadhaar or any authorised identity proof as mandatory for authentication while obtaining a user account.

They argued, in their petition, that this will help in tracing miscreants or originators of fake messages and videos.

In the last couple of years, the Indian government had emphasised on personal traceability issue and rising violence due to the spread of misinformation on the platform.

IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had insisted on traceability saying ‘traceability shall be their jobs’.

However, WhatsApp, which describes itself as space for private conversation, has maintained that it would not break encryption endangering the privacy of its users.

The next hearing is scheduled on August 21. The last hearing on July 24 saw the presence of social media giants, including Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

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