New Delhi: The Central government on Wednesday (May 26, 2021) said it respects the right to privacy and the requirement of tracing origin of flagged messages under the new IT rules is for prevention and investigation of ‘very serious offences’ related to the sovereignty of India or public order.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the Union IT Ministry Ravi Shankar Prasad said 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.” IT Minister termed WhatsApp’s last moment challenge to the intermediary guidelines as an ‘unfortunate’ attempt to prevent norms from coming into effect.
“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”, he said in an official statement.
Prasad further clarified that new IT rules are a part of ‘reasonable restrictions’ and no Fundamental right is absolute. “No Fundamental Right, including the Right to Privacy, is absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions. The requirements in the Intermediary Guidelines pertaining to the first originator of information are an example of such a reasonable restriction,” he added.
The Ministry of Electronics & IT, in its statement cited countries like the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada which require social media firms to allow for legal interception, it said, adding, “What India is asking for is significantly much less than what some of the other countries have demanded.”
“Therefore, WhatsApp’s attempt to portray the Intermediary Guidelines of India as contrary to the right to privacy is misguided,” the official statement said.
“Such requirements are only in case when the message is required for prevention, investigation or punishment of very serious offences related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, or public order, or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material,” the statement said.
The Centre’s response comes after WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in the Delhi High Court challenging the government’s new digital rules, arguing that the requirement for the company to provide access to encrypted messages will break privacy protections.