The Supreme Court will no longer use WhatsApp groups to share video conference links for court hearings, the apex court registry said on 27 February.
In a circular, the registry said that instead of WhatsApp, the links for virtual court hearings in the Supreme Court will be shared on registered email ids and registered mobile numbers of the concerned advocates-on-record and party-in-person.
The step was taken in the wake of the newly notified Information Technology (Guidelines for intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules, 2021).
“It is notified for the information of the Advocates-on-Record /Party-in-Persons that the creation of groups in WhatsApp for sharing of VC links for hearing of their matters is restricted/barred due to new guidelines or regulations issued by government of India pertaining to social media Apps and OTT platforms, it said.
It said the VC links shall be shared “w.e.f. 1 March 2021 through registered email ids as well as by SMS on registered mobile numbers of the Ld. Advocates-on-Record / Party-in-Persons”.
The government on 25 February announced sweeping regulations for social media firms like Facebook and Twitter as well as OTT players.
The guidelines make it mandatory for platforms such as Twitter and WhatsApp to identify the originator of a message that authorities consider to be anti-national and against the security and sovereignty of the country.
The guidelines require social media intermediaries to appoint a resident grievance officer, who shall register complaints in 24 hours, and file monthly compliance reports. User grievances have to be resolved within 15 days.
Intermediaries will be required to preserve information and associated records for 180 days for investigation purposes, or for such longer period as may be required by the court or by government agencies.
India is a large market for digital and social media companies and is witnessing strong growth on the back of booming smartphone sales and the availability of dirt-cheap data. The country has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 41 crore Facebook users, 21 crore use Instagram and 1.75 crore are on Twitter.