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G2 Chambers has also approached CCI against Whatsapp. Photo: Reuters
G2 Chambers has also approached CCI against Whatsapp. Photo: Reuters

Payments service case: WhatsApp questions credibility of SC petitioner

  • The report said the address of petitioner G2 Chambers in court filings is the same as that provided by the complainant who approached the CCI with a similar case against WhatsApp

NEW DELHI: Instant messaging platform, WhatsApp, which has been waiting to enter the payments space in India, is pushing back against complainants. In its response in the Supreme Court, the company “raised questions" about petitioner Good Governance or G2 Chambers, according to reports.

The SC case is the second filing against WhatsApp’s unified payments interface (UPI) based payments product, after a petition had been filed with the Competition Commission of India (CCI)

The report says the address of G2 Chambers in the court filing is the same as that provided by the complainant who approached the CCI with a case against the platform. According to WhatsApp, that leads to the “irresistible conclusion" that it’s the same party and it’s an “unregistered think tank which was formed two months before the case".

Further, WhatsApp said G2 Chambers is unsuitable for pursuing the PIL as it is an unregistered association and doesn’t “possess a legal personality". It is also represented by the same law firm, Law Juno, and shares the same address as the firm itself.

The domain names for Law Juno and G2 Chambers are also the same and WhatsApp’s affidavit to the court says they were registered by an individual named Sahil Baghla. The affidavit says an individual by the same name was arrested in 2018 in connection with a $300 million worth Bitcoin-based Ponzi scheme.

Admitting the public interest litigation (PIL) on May 13, the SC had sought a response from WhatsApp, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and the government within three weeks on the matter. WhatsApp was responding to the same litigation.

While the Facebook-owned company had launched the beta for its payments product over a year ago, it has not yet been able to make it publicly available, thanks to such questions. Petitioners have questioned the status of data localisation for WhatsApp, which is a requirement for any payments applications functioning in India. The RBI had earlier given its approval to WhatsApp Pay for operating in India.

“Despite claiming to have a secured and safe technology Interface and infrastructure, WhatApp has been known to have paid to secure sensitive data of its users and subsequently even failed to assume accountability and responsibility for the same," the latest PIL claims.

When it admitted the case, the court had said the plea will not interfere with WhatsApp getting approval from the RBI for its service. “It is made clear that there will be no stay of the proceedings with respect to the application of WhatsApp by the Government, which shall be processed in accordance with law," the court had said.

The instant messaging app has over 2 billion users worldwide and over 400 million users in India. Experts have said that the company could quickly amass users upon launch and pose a major challenge to payments service providers like PayTM, PhonePe, Google Pay and others who also provide UPI-based payments services in the country.

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