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Admins of WhatsApp groups can’t be held liable for other members’ posts: HC

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Nagpur, Apr 27: The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court held that WhatsApp group admins cannot be held liable for objectionable content posted by a member. The Bench however added that action can be initiated only if common intention or a pre-arranged plan between them was proven.

A Division Bench comprising Justices Zaka Haq and Amir Borkar said, in the absence of a specific penal provision creating vicarious liability, the administrator can't be held liable for objectionable content posted by a member. Common intention can't be established in the case of WhatsApp service users merely acting as administrators.

Admins of WhatsApp groups can’t be held liable for other members’ posts: HC

The court was hearing a petition filed by a man from Gondia seeking to quash charges of sexual harasssment and Section 67 of the IT Act 2000. The Bench noted that the admin does not have the power to censor, moderate or regulate content before it is posted.

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"The administrators are the ones who create the group by adding/deleting the members. Every group has one or more administrators, who control members' participation. A group administrator has limited power of removing/adding the members. Once the group is created, the administrators' and members' functions are at par with each other, except addition/deletion powers. But, if a member posts any objectionable content, s/he can be held liable under relevant provisions of law," the Bench said.

Kishor Tarone moved the court after a lady accused him of of not removing a member who had used obscene language against her. She also said that the admin failed to ask the member to apologise to her. He instead expressed helplessness, she also said.

In our opinion, in the facts of present case, non removal of a member or failure to seek apology from him, who had posted the objectionable remark, would not amount to making sexually coloured remarks by the administrator., the Bench also said.

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