The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has described WhatsApp’s refusal to comply with the new IT rules as a “clear act of defiance,” saying that while it respects the right to privacy, it is not an unlimited right and will be subject to reasonable restrictions.
The government was reacting to WhatsApp’s lawsuit against the IT rules, which was filed in the Delhi High Court on May 25, the last day for the new rules to be implemented.
“The Government of India is committed to ensuring the Right to Privacy to all of its citizens, but it is also the government’s responsibility to maintain law and order and ensure national security,” said Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, adding that “none of the measures proposed by India will have any impact on the normal functioning of WhatsApp in any way whatsoever and for the common man,” there will be no impact.
“Whether Right to Privacy is ensured through encryption technology or some other technology is entirely within the purview of the social media intermediary,” Prasad said, dismissing the end-to-end encryption debate. It is WhatsApp’s responsibility to find a technical solution that allows both to happen, whether through encryption or otherwise.” WhatsApp’s main argument is that tracing every single message would require it to break its end-to-end encryption protocol.
In a press release, the Indian government stated that it recognizes the “Right to Privacy” as a fundamental right and is committed to providing it to its citizens. “As per all established judicial dictum, no Fundamental Right, including the Right to Privacy, is absolute and is subject to reasonable restrictions,” the statement continued.
In its petition, WhatsApp cites the Supreme Court decision in Justice K S Puttaswamy vs Union Of India from 2017 to argue that the traceability provision is unconstitutional and violates people’s fundamental right to privacy.
According to the government response, WhatsApp is only required to trace the originator of a message if the message is needed for the prevention, investigation, or punishment of very serious offenses relating to India’s sovereignty and integrity, security, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order, or incitement to an offense relating to the abomination.