The order was passed last month and a copy of it was made available on 22 April. A departmental bench headed by Justices ZA Haq and AB Borkar said that WhatsApp group administrators have limited powers like adding and removing members. The admin cannot censor or control objectionable content inserted by another member.
The court passed the order with reference to an application filed by Kishore Taron (33). Kishore Taron wanted that section 354-A (1) (iv) (commenting for sexual sentiment) 509 (insulting woman’s shame) and 107 (abetment) in Gondia district under the Indian Penal Code within the year 2016 and Cases related to IT Act section 67 (publishing or transmitting objectionable material in electronic form) should be dismissed.
According to the indictment, Taron did not take any action against a female member of the group against a hate speech comment posted by another member.
It was alleged that the applicant, being the Group Administrator, did not expel the member who used abusive language from the group nor asked him to apologize. The court said that the conclusion of the entire case rests on whether the WhatsApp group administrator should be held criminally responsible for objectionable posts made by other members.
Keeping in mind the working of this messaging service app, the court said, “A group administrator is the person who creates a group and adds or remove members to it. Each chat group can have more than one administrator.”
“The group manager has only limited power to remove or add members. Once a group is created, the administration and members’ functionality becomes the same, except for adding or removing members.”
“WhatsApp’s group administrator does not have the power to regulate or censor content before posting it. Yes, if a member posts offensive content to the group, that member can be held responsible for it.”
“The WhatsApp group administrator cannot be held liable for objectionable content posted by other members, unless there is a collusion or predetermined scheme, because of the special punitive provision that creates the liability.” The court said.
The FIR and the charge sheet filed against Taron were rejected by the High Court.<!–