(Image source from: The Hindu)
The Supreme Court on Monday sought the response the Centre and WhatsApp on a petition which said the messaging platform was thus far to comply with the necessitates under Indian law, including the appointment of a grievance officer.
On a plea filed by Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) for Accountability and Systematic Change (CASC), a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Indu Malhotra issued the notice. The parties have four weeks to file their replies.
The NGO as well requested the court not to allow the platform to proceed with its payment service unless it meets the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines. The CASC put forward that a client who wants to open a bank account needs to follow with KYC (Know your customer) norms laid down by the RBI and carry through various other requirements.
But "WhatsApp is a foreign company with no office or servers in India. To run payments service in India, WhatsApp is obligated to have its office and payments in India," it said. "Moreover, it is also required to have a grievance officer for users in India. Yet, it is being allowed to continue with its payments and other services, without any check," it added.
Appearing for the NGO, advocate Virag Gupta likewise referred to an alleged misdemeanor of tax laws and rumors on WhatsApp fueling crimes.
In India, WhatsApp reportedly has over 200 million, and almost one million people are "testing" its payments service. India is one of the sizable bases for the Facebook-owned company that has more than 1.5 billion users worldwide.
According to the allegation by the petition, the social media giant does not comply with tax and other laws.
Referring to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics regarding offenses against public tranquility, it said the "growth of such rumor-based crimes are directly proportional to the growth of user base of messaging services like WhatsApp, which continue to remain unregulated, not because of lack of laws, but absolute executive apathy".
It further said the platform had a wide reach, adding that every user has a number on WhatsApp but the messaging platform has no number through which a user can contact it to redress any grievance.
"Companies like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. have appointed grievance officers for users in India, but WhatsApp has not. However, the grievance officer of Facebook sits in Ireland and the grievance officer of Google sits in the United States of America (USA) and are thus rendered ineffective," it said.
"In order to make Respondent No. 6 (WhatsApp) accountable, it must be directed to comply with Indian law and appoint a grievance officer, who shall be the person to address grievance of consumers, as well as coordinate with investigating agencies," said the petition.
By Sowmya Sangam