The C Times, 18 July 2017, Agartala
The Delhi High Court said, “Any document shared on WhatsApp does not qualify as evidence unless the original is produced”.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva made this observation while hearing a petition, which sought directions to three states, including Arunachal Pradesh.
Arunachal Pradesh police and CBI for registering a FIR in connection with an alleged suicide note of former Chief Minister Kalikho Paul. Kalikho Paul was found dead at the CM’s official residence in Itanagar on 9 August last year.
The court enquired with the petitioners about their source of the information. The petitioners National Lawyers Campaign for Judicial Transparency and others said they had obtained the information from a WhatsApp post.
The court then pointed out, “Neither the name of the sender of the alleged WhatsApp post was stated, nor was it stated as to which of the petitioners received the WhatsApp post. The petition, making very serious allegations, has been filed merely based on a post allegedly circulated on a WhatsApp group.”
The post, which the petitioner claimed to be a suicide note, is the English translation of a document written in Hindi. The petitioners also grappled that the document had been sourced from a website where it was mentioned that the suicide note had been translated from Hindi to English.
Notwithstanding, none of the petitioners had seen or was privy to the original note, the court noted. “In the present case, the petitioners, very candidly admit that they are not privy to any information. What they believe to be information is a post circulated on WhatsApp platform or an alleged translation on a website. The alleged information is not claimed to true to their knowledge,” it observed.
In court’s proportion, the petition nowhere showed how the petitioners formed a “reasonable belief” that the alleged post or the translation could be true or had any basis.
Considering the court, the WhatsApp post did not even empower as a document under the Evidence Act, 1872. “Over one-and-a-half hours of the judicial time of this court has been spent in hearing arguments and disposal of the petition. Since the petitioners have admittedly filed the petition without verifying or affirming any fact and without formation of even a belief that what is stated in the petition has any iota of truth behind it, the writ petition is dismissed with costs of Rs 25,000 on each of the petitioners.”