SC to hear WhatsApp privacy case on 17 January

Centre informed the court that a new data privacy bill is in the making and the matter needs a legislative response rather than judicial intervention

Priyanka Gawande
Updated21 Nov 2022
A petition was filed by two individuals challenging the WhatsApp’s deal with Meta to provide access to calls, photographs, texts, videos, and documents shared by users. (Bloomberg)
A petition was filed by two individuals challenging the WhatsApp’s deal with Meta to provide access to calls, photographs, texts, videos, and documents shared by users. (Bloomberg)

The Supreme Court on Monday listed the WhatsApp data privacy case for final disposal on 17 January and asked the Centre and the Meta-owned social media app to wind up their arguments by 15 December.

The top court is hearing a petition by two individuals challenging WhatsApp’s deal with Meta to provide access to calls, photographs, texts, videos and documents shared by users.

The petitioners said the act is a violation of their right to privacy and free speech.

The Centre then informed the court that a new data privacy bill would shortly be introduced in Parliament after the government withdrew the previous one.

The counsel for the government said, “So far the petitioners are concerned we are alive to the situation. Indian citizens cannot be discriminated against the other consumers globally present on WhatsApp,” and added that the new bill is in the making and it needs a legislative response rather than judicial intervention.

Shyam Diwan, representing the petitioners, claimed that WhatsApp’s privacy policy had changed after being acquired by Meta.

He added that as privacy is a global human right, Indian consumers shouldn’t be at a disadvantage in comparison to users elsewhere until the Bill takes shape.

He claimed that European users enjoy a higher level of safety and privacy.

Senior counsel appearing for WhatsApp, Kapil Sibal, said, “WhatsApp has strict privacy guidelines. The privacy concern ought to apply to other sites as well. The laws that are used in European nations are those exclusive to certain nations. In India, we adhere to the current legal framework.”

“If any platform is operating in India, it should be citizen-centric and not WhatsApp-centric...we have witnessed many cases where privacy is being violated,” said solicitor general Tushar Mehta.

The counsel for the government suggested that the top court could wait before taking any significant decision in the matter since the new legislation could address many of the concerns of the petitioners.

 

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