Can’t act on judicial officer’s sexually explicit video sans proper order, WhatsApp tells HC

New Delhi, Dec 9 (PTI) Messaging platform WhatsApp on Friday told the Delhi High Court it cannot take action in relation to the circulation of a “sexually explicit” video of a judicial officer with a woman unless specific mobile numbers are provided and an appropriate order is passed.

WhatsApp’s made the statement before Justice Yashwant Varma who was hearing a lawsuit by one of the aggrieved parties whose identity was earlier allowed to remain concealed by the court.

The lawsuit sought a permanent injunction restraining publication and telecast of the “purported video dated 09 March 2022” which surfaced on November 29.

On November 30, the court had restrained the sharing and posting of the video and called for taking down the content from various online platforms.

“They are expecting us to do something that we are not in a position to do. The MEITY also says we cannot do it unless they give us the phone numbers… The order (to take any action) has to be by the court. They give it to the court and then an order can be passed,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, said on Friday.

Observing that private exchanges are not like URLs or web links, Justice Varma granted time to the counsel for the plaintiff to provide particulars of phone numbers sharing the content in question.

The central government, represented by standing counsel Ajay Digpaul, informed that a “compliance affidavit” has been filed and action has been taken by platforms including Facebook and Twitter.

The counsel for the plaintiff said pursuant to the last order, remedial action has been taken by the parties.

The court also allowed the plaintiff to give further URLs which are still carrying the video.

The counsel for Google, which owns YouTube, said it will take down the new offending URLs which have been provided to it.

The plaintiff was represented by lawyer Ashish Dixit.

While passing the interim order, the court had said the circulation of the video was in violation of several laws and irreparable harm would be caused to the privacy rights of the plaintiff, and an ad interim ex-parte injunction was therefore warranted.

The court had noted the full bench of the high court had taken cognizance of the incident on its administrative side and, pursuant to a resolution, its Registrar General had conveyed to the authorities the need to take appropriate action for blocking the said video over all ISPs, messaging platforms as also social media platforms.

“Bearing in mind the sexually explicit nature of the contents of that video and taking into consideration the imminent, grave and irreparable harm that is likely to be caused to the privacy rights of the plaintiff an ad interim ex parte injunction is clearly warranted,” the court had said in its order.

The matter will be heard next on February 8. PTI ADS SK SK

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