SC Allows RSS Ideologue Govindacharya to Withdraw Plea against WhatsApp

Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com

Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com

KN Govindacharya had also sought an NIA probe against social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp and Israeli technology firm NSO Group for violating 'fundamental privacy of Indians'.

  • PTI
  • Last Updated: December 2, 2019, 10:16 PM IST
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday allowed former RSS ideologue K N Govindacharya to withdraw his plea seeking initiation of "perjury" proceedings against 'WhatsApp' for allegedly misleading the top court by claiming that the users data is "fully encrypted".

Govindacharya had also sought an NIA probe against social media platforms Facebook, WhatsApp and Israeli technology firm NSO Group for violating "fundamental privacy of Indians". A bench, comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, asked senior advocate Vikas Singh - appearing for Govindacharya - to withdraw the plea after the counsel for WhatsApp said that similar petitions were pending before the top court.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi said there was no need for a fresh plea to be entertained. "Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the petitioner prays for withdrawal of this petition with liberty to file appropriate proceedings. Prayer is allowed. Accordingly, the writ petition is dismissed as withdrawn with the liberty aforesaid," the bench said.

Govindacharya had sought perjury proceedings against WhatsApp, in the wake of alleged snooping by the messaging application, for deliberately misleading the court by claiming that users data is fully encrypted and no one including the company has the key.

The Facebook-owned messaging platform had in October revealed that Indian scribes and human rights activists were among those globally spied upon by unnamed entities using an Israeli sypware.

The plea had said that private respondents take away data of Indian users outside the country, and exploit them for commercial gains and nefarious purposes, including influencing elections.

It said that misuse of social media can only be handled if these companies have offices in India, for which "The Information Technology [Intermediaries Guidelines (Amendment) Rules] 2018" ought to be notified immediately.

The government cannot forever indulge in the consultative process, even as fundamental right of privacy of Indians is being violated with impunity, it said. The plea further stated that unlike countries in Europe and the US, which impose huge fines on incidents of privacy breach, no action is taken in India against companies compromising with the fundamental rights of the people.

"In Europe and USA, huge penalties are imposed in such matters. In India, neither any penalty is imposed nor is criminal prosecution of internet companies done for playing with Right to Life of crores of Indians," the plea said.

The petition said that privacy was a fundamental and constitutional right of Indians, which was violated by the breach done by Whatsapp. "Protection of fundamental rights is essential to the rule of law. Privacy of crores of Indian cannot be curbed without following the procedure established by law, and any such instances is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution," it said.

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