The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court ruled that administrators of WhatsApp groups can’t be held liable for objectionable content posted by group members unless there was a “common intention” or a “pre-planned plan”.
The court was hearing a case against an administrator of a WhatsApp group for not taking action against a group member who used indecent language against a woman in the group. The member of the WhatsApp group was also named in the FIR. The bench quashed the FIR against the 33-year-old administrator of the WhatsApp group.
The Division Bench of Justice ZA Haq and Justice Amit B Borkar the administrators don’t have the power to regulate, censor or moderate the content before it’s posted to the group.
The order was passed in the month of March and published recently on official website.
The bench observed, “A group administrator cannot be held vicariously liable for an act of member of the group, who posts objectionable content, unless it is shown that there was common intention or pre-arranged plan acting in concert pursuant to such plan by such member of a Whatsapp group and the administrator. Common intention cannot be established in a case of Whatsapp service user merely acting as a group administrator. When a person creates a Whatsapp group, he cannot be expected to presume or to have advance knowledge of the criminal acts of the member of the group. We are not examining the issue of liability of an administrator if he is a creator of objectionable content, as it is not arising in the facts of the present case.”
Further the bench held that, “In our opinion, in the facts of present case, non-removal of a member by administrator of a Whatsapp group or failure to seek apology from a member, who had posted the objectionable remark, would not amount to making sexually coloured remarks by administrator. We are therefore, of the opinion that even if the allegations in the First Information Report and the material brought on record in the form of charge-sheet is considered as true, the ingredients of the offence under section 354-A(1)(iv) of the Indian Penal Code are not fulfilled.”
The court quashed and set aside an FIR registered in July 2016 against an administrator of WhatsApp group, along with the chargesheet filed against him.