By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-07-11 13:52:03
The Supreme Court has, in principle, agreed to allow the service of notices and summons via instant messaging apps (IMAs) like WhatsApp and Telegram. A bench of CJI S A Bobde and justices R S Reddy and A S Bopanna heard the suggestions made by AG K K Venugopal and solicitor general Tushar Mehta before making the observation. The bench was of the view that this innovation was needed because physical delivery of notices, summons and inquiries from courts has been made difficult due to the disruption caused by the pandemic.
The bench first said that confirmation of receipt and reading, as denoted by blue ticks in WhatsApp, would be enough to prove that the document had been delivered and read by the recipient. But when SG drew the attention of the court to a function in the app that allowed users to hide the blue ticks, the court was of the view that instant messaging apps delivery could be in addition to notices sent through email. Let alone the blue ticks that confirm that a message has been read, for privacy reasons WhatsApp even allows users to disable the second tick that confirms delivery. Hence, the sender can never know whether his message was delivered if the recipient has disabled the feature.
Although this is a welcome decision by the apex court, technology often throws up newer challenges while solving old ones. Hence, it is advisable that before admitting anything sent through instant messaging apps as proof, a clear cut policy is decided, if need be then in consultation with such app makers, as to what will confirm the delivery and access of such messages in a manner that they can be held up as proof in court. Otherwise, the courts will be flooded with unnecessary cases due to parties contesting sending of messages via this route.
Emails are different as they are delivered in the box of the recipient and constitute valid proof of delivery. If an email is not delivered, it bounces bank to the sender. The very fact that the sent mail did not bounce back confirms that it was delivered to the box of the registered email id. The recipient of an email message cannot take the plea that he did not read it as then he can also take the plea that although he received the physical envelope containing the notice, he did not open and read what was inside.