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WhatsApp: Merely going to court not a ground not to comply with law of the land

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New Delhi, May 26: The deadline to comply with the Centre's new guidelines under the Information and Technology Act is over and several social media giants are yet to comply with the same.

In another development, WhatsApp moved the Delhi High Court and said that the new digital rules mean end to user privacy.

WhatsApp: Merely going to court not a ground not to comply with law of the land

Merely going to the High Court is not a ground for you not to comply with the rules, the nation's top cyber law expert and senior advocate Pavan Duggal says. Speaking exclusively to OneIndia, Duggal said that he sees this fight between the social media companies and the government escalating. The IT Rules 2021 represents a paradigm shift in policy as it has invoked criminal liability. Earlier we had IT Rules, but it did not specify any legal liability for non-compliance.

The new rules are mandatory and if an intermediary does not comply, then it loses the statutory exemption from legal liability, Duggal says. The company and its top management are liable to be punished for non-compliance, he also added.

If these companies do not comply, then they have to be prepared for criminal prosecution and the government had given them three months time to comply with the new rules.

Now that the companies have not complied as yet, they stand exposed to statutory exemption being taken away, Duggal further added. They can be sued for damages and they can be made liable for criminal complaints and prosecution, he also added.

On WhatsApp going to court, Duggal says merely going to court is not a ground for you not to comply with the rules. The rules made in this country have to be complied with, Duggal also said. These rules are not meant only for the social media. They are applicable to 99 per cent of the companies and each one will have to comply with it, he also added.

I find the opportunistic approach of the service providers strange. They thrusted the privacy policy on the Indian users. Now the same company (WhatsApp) uses the shoulders of the Indian users stating that their privacy will be impacted. This is double speak, he adds.

There is nothing stopping the government from starting criminal prosecution for non-compliance. I feel that once it is done, the message will go out loud and clear. I think it is time that the social media companies will start seeing the writing on the wall. They cannot operate without complying with Indian laws, Duggal says.

The law is very clear and if you violate or commit a crime you are liable and this will hang like a Damascus Sword on the head of every intermediary. Service providers have to understand that they are not above the law. For a large number of time big tech companies were getting away on the ground that they are foreign companies. When you benefit from the market, you will have to comply with the rules of the land, Duggal also said.

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