Police in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra have registered a case against an unidentified administrator of a WhatsApp group after a woman complained about objectionable religious posts and that she was repeatedly forced to join it, in probably the first such incident.
Police have booked the administrator and three to four other members of the group.
“We have registered a case and action will be taken after identification of the accused,” Ajay Kumar, senior sub-inspector at Loha Mandi police station, said.
The people have been charged under laws relating to hurting religious sentiments, making obscene comments and violation of the Information Technology Act.
Kumar said they will seek the assistance of the cyber cell to investigate the case.
The woman, a research scholar at Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar University, alleged she was made a member of a group by some unknown person on April 13. She tried to leave the group a number of times but was invited back by the administrator, who she said posted objectionable religious comments along with other members.
The woman, who is from a minority community, said when she raised objection members of the group sided with the administrator and abused and threatened her. She then told her family about the matter who helped her lodge a police complaint.
Sub-inspector Kumar said most of the members of the group were well educated and had been sharing objectionable content.
Last year, the Delhi high court held that administrators of WhatsApp, Telegram and similar social networking services cannot be held guilty of defamation if the members of the group post libellous and obscene messages.
However, authorities in Varanasi said last week that any factually incorrect, rumour or misleading information on a social media group could result in an FIR against the group administrator.
In a joint order, district magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra and senior superintendent of police Nitin Tiwari directed that social media group administrators should be ready to bear the responsibility and ownership of the groups. They said administrators must include only those who are personally known to them.
It also said that orders of the Supreme Court and high courts will be considered while initiating action.
Concerns have been raised about the misuse of social media as fake news, rumours, morphed photographs and videos with fabricated news can easily be circulated on such groups that can trigger tension and even communal rift in an area.
There are over 200 million WhatsApp users in India.
(With PTI inputs)