‘Foolhardy to doubt objective’: Centre defends IT rules in row with WhatsApp

Updated on May 26, 2021 06:29 PM IST

In a press release on Wednesday evening, the Union ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) responded to WhatsApp approaching the Delhi high court against the new IT rules.

The icon of WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen.
The icon of WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen.
By | Edited by Karan Manral, New Delhi

The Union ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) said on Wednesday the government "respects the right of privacy" as it responded to WhatsApp moving the Delhi high court against the new IT rules.

Also Read | 'Dangerous invasion of privacy': WhatsApp moves Delhi HC against new IT rules

"The government respects the right of privacy and has no intention to violate it when WhatsApp is required to disclose the origin of a particular message," the ministry said in a press release on Wednesday evening. "Such requirements are only in the case when the message is required for prevention, investigation or punishment of very serious offences related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order, or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material," the release further said.

Emphasising that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, the ministry further gave pointers on how the new rules are in "abiding public interest," are as per "law of the land," and "have an international precedence."

"Government is committed to ensure the right of privacy to all its citizens but at the same time it is also the responsibility of the government to maintain law and order and ensure national security," the ministry quoted Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad as saying. "None of the measures proposed by India will impact the normal functioning of WhatsApp in any manner whatsoever and for the common users, there will be no impact," the minister further said.

On February 25, Prasad and information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Prakash Javadekar announced the new IT rules, giving social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram three months, i.e. till May 25, to comply with the government directives. The deadline elapsed on Tuesday. While Twitter is yet to comment on the issue, Facebook has said it is "working on the new rules." However, it added that "a few of the issues need more engagement with the government."

Also Read | Deadline ends; aim to comply: Facebook

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, moved the Delhi high court on Tuesday, stating in its plea that the rules are "unconstitutional," "illegal" and a "dangerous invasion of privacy."

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