Supreme Court says okay to Summons via WhatsApp, Email, Telegram etc
Supreme Court says serving notices and summons through Whatsapp, Telegram and email etc is Legally valid now
NEW DELHI: In a first, the Supreme Court on Friday agreed in principle that serving notices and summons, integral to judicial processes, on persons through instant messaging services like Whatsapp and Telegram in addition to emails would be legally valid.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde, and Justices R S Reddy and A S Bopanna agreed with the suggestions of attorney general K K Venugopal and solicitor general Tushar Mehta that service of summons/notices through email would constitute a valid delivery of these legal instruments asking a respondent/person to either appear before the court or respond to a court query. It said this innovation was needed as physical delivery of notices/summons during lockdown periods has been difficult.
However, Venugopal expressed reservation about service through Whatsapp. “Since the messenger service claims that it is end-to-end encrypted, it would be difficult to prove legitimate service of summons/notices sent through Whatsapp,” he said. But, the CJI said, “If the sent notice/summons in message form reflects two blue ticks, then it would constitute as valid service.”
However, Mehta pointed out that “it is easy to tweak the Whatsapp settings, as I have done, to not show the sender the blue ticks. This would give an erroneous impression that the person has not received the summons despite him receiving and going through it.” Senior advocate Sidharth Luthra agreed with Mehta.
Then the CJI said the whatsapp messages could be in addition to summons and notices sent through emails. However, in the draft order, the bench mentioned instant messaging services instead of Whatsapp or Telegram saying it would not commit the mistake of a photocopy machine being called a ‘Xerox’ machine. Formal orders from the court are likely to be uploaded on Monday. However, the SC refused to extend the three month validity period for cheques.
The bench said the three month validity period for cheques is not stipulated by any statute but is based on a RBI direction under Banking Regulation Act. AS the RBI through senior advocate V Giri pleaded that any tinkering with the cheque validity period could affect the banking system, the bench said, “We would not interfere with the cheque validity period.”
The SC on Friday also agreed to examine the Centre’s suggestion that banks could be permitted to get Letter of Acknowledgement of Debt (LAD) from borrowers within 45 days of lifting of lockdown to avoid initiation of recovery proceedings to ease anxiety of the banks and thousands of borrowers because of expiry of three year limitation period during prolonged lockdown and which could lead to initiation of recovery proceedings.
HDFC Bank through senior advocate Shyam Divan said that where the three year limitation period for repayment of debt prescribed under the Indian Limitation Act of 1963 has lapsed during the lockdown period or is about to lapse immediately after the lifting of the lockdown period, the banks would be expected to move the concerned courts/tribunals for filing recovery proceedings or make a virtually impossible dash for obtaining LADs. The bank had sought extension of the limitation period to avoid massive litigation.
The bank said, “Where LADs cannot be obtained, suits will have to be filed where limitation has expired during the lockdown or where it is due to expire immediately after lockdown. This again creates an insurmountable logistical problem.”
The Centre has suggested that “on the lifting of lockdown, a period of 45 days should be made available to the bank/person/ entity/institution to approach the court/tribunal through appropriate proceedings or to take any other step including obtaining LADs. For this purpose, a period of 45 days from the date of lifting of the lockdown will be given to the bank/person/entity/institution for the purpose of preferring plaints or making applications or taking any other step involving a period of limitation, or obtaining LADs.”