WhatsApp Warns Delhi High Court: Breaking Encryption Will Spell End for Messaging Platform


In a significant development, WhatsApp informed the Delhi High Court today that complying with demands to break encryption of messages would result in the termination of the messaging platform altogether. Advocate Tejas Karia, representing the US-based company, emphasized that WhatsApp's appeal lies in the privacy it guarantees through end-to-end encryption, and any compromise on this aspect would render the platform obsolete.

Appearing before a Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, Karia reiterated WhatsApp's stance against Rule 4(2) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. This rule mandates significant social media intermediaries to facilitate the identification of the first originator of information upon court or competent authority orders.

Karia argued that this requirement would necessitate the storage of vast quantities of messages for extended periods, a practice unprecedented elsewhere in the world. He emphasized that the rule exceeds the scope of the parent Information Technology Act, which does not advocate for the decryption of messages.

Responding to the Bench's queries about international precedents, Karia clarified that similar laws do not exist even in regions like South America, including Brazil.

In contrast, Central Government Standing Counsel Kirtiman Singh defended the rule, highlighting the necessity of tracing message originators amidst growing concerns over misinformation and unlawful content circulation. Singh underscored that WhatsApp has faced rigorous scrutiny, including before the United States Congress, indicating the global significance of the issues at hand.

The Court, recognizing the complexity of the matter, stressed the importance of striking a balance between privacy concerns and law enforcement requirements. It adjourned the case to August 14, scheduling it alongside a batch of cases transferred from the Supreme Court challenging various provisions of the IT Rules 2021.

The outcome of this legal battle holds substantial implications for digital privacy and regulation in India, with the Delhi High Court poised to address fundamental questions surrounding encryption and user privacy in the digital age.

Author: Anushka Taraniya 

News Writer, MIT ADT University