The government clarified that it had no intention of violating the privacy of WhatsApp users even if it required the instant messaging app to disclose the origin of a particular message, adding that the right to privacy was not absolute and subject to “reasonable restrictions”.
“WhatsApp’s attempt to portray the Intermediary Guidelines of India as contrary to the right to privacy is misguided,” the official assertion mentioned. The assertion acknowledged that the 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 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.
“Such necessities are solely in case when the message is required for prevention, investigation or punishment of very critical offences associated to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the safety of the State, pleasant relations with overseas States, or public order, or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually express materials or little one sexual abuse materials,” the statement said.
In its petition, WhatApp argued that the new rules would require WhatsApp to build the ability to identify the first originator of every communication sent in India on its platform, as there is no way to predict which message will be the subject of such an order seeking first originator information. WhatsApp further said in its petition that according to the existing law, to justify an intrusion into the fundamental right of privacy, the three requirements of legality, need — defined in terms of a legitimate State aim — and proportionality must be met.
Many argued who would decide the need to find the original sender of a message. “The only point of contention, therefore, is when and how, and at what point of time, is the first originator to be identified? The point at which the government asks WhatsApp through a legal notice (as said in the rule), or is it at the point when the person sends the message? That becomes the crux of the issue.