Hours after WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in Delhi High Court against new IT rules, the Government on Wednesday said that 'no Fundamental Right, including the Right to Privacy, is absolute'. However, the Centre said that the government recognises that 'Right to Privacy' is a Fundamental Right and is committed to ensure the same to its citizens.
"On this issue, Union Minister Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad has stated 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. Minister Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad also stated that "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," a statement issued by the government said.
"Rule 4(2) of the Intermediary Guidelines is not a measure in isolation. The rules have been framed after consultation with various stakeholders and social media intermediaries, including but not limited to WhatsApp," it added.
What WhatsApp said in lawsuit
In its lawsuit, WhatsApp challenged the government's new digital rules saying the requirement for the company to provide access to encrypted messages will break privacy protections.
The petition, filed on Tuesday evening, seeks declaring the rule requiring the message service provider to identify the first originator of any message flagged as a violation of privacy rights provided by the constitution.
"Requiring messages to trace chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people's right to privacy," a spokesperson of the company said in a statement.
"We have consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of our users," he added.
"We will also continue to engage with the Government of India on practical solutions aimed at keeping people safe, including responding to valid legal requests for the information available to us," WhatsApp spokesperson said.
What are the new rules
The petition came just as the new digital rules kicked in. Non-compliance with the rules could take away legal protection of social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp for user content posted on their platforms. The new rules were announced on February 25 with a deadline of three month to comply.
They previously enjoyed immunity for content posted by any third party user on their platforms. The new rules require them to take down any content flagged by the authorities within 36 hours, and set up a mechanism to respond to complaints.
They are also required to use automated processes to take down pornography.
(With PTI inputs)