Union Minister Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad has stated that “the Government of India 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.” He also stated that “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 for IT clarified that guidelines shall be passed only for the purposes of prevention, investigation, punishment etc. of offences related to sovereignty, integrity and security of India, public order incitement to an offence relating to rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material.
“It is in public interest that who started the mischief leading to such crime must be detected and punished. We cannot deny as to how in cases of mob lynching and riots etc. repeated WhatsApp messages are circulated and recirculated whose content are already in public domain. Hence the role of who originated is very important”, he said.
As a significant social media intermediary, WhatsApp seeks a safe harbour protection as per the provisions of the Information Technology Act. However, in a befuddling act, they seek to avoid responsibility and refuse to enact the very steps which permit them a safe harbour provision, said Ravi Shankar Prasad. He also said that all sufficient safeguards have also been considered as it is clearly stated that it is not any individual who can trace the first originator of information. Further, these measures will be used as a last resort measure, only in scenarios where other remedies have proven to be ineffective, he said.
Such measures are enacted by Government of India in public interest and are not rules enacted in isolation but have global precedence, he said. He gave the examples of similar measures required in United Kingdom, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada where tech companies should include mechanisms in the design of their encrypted products and services whereby governments, acting with appropriate legal authority, can gain access to data in a readable and usable format.