The administrator of WhatsApp Group is not responsible for unpleasant posts from others: Bombay HC

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A group administrator on WhatsApp cannot be held criminally liable for an unacceptable position by another member of the group, a judge in Nagpur of the Bombay High Court held and dismissed a case of sexual harassment against a 33-year-old man.

The order was adopted last month, and a copy was provided on April 22. The Trial Chamber, headed by Judges ZA Haq and AB Borkar, notes that the administrator WhatsApp group has
only limited powers to add or delete members to the group and no authority to regulate or censor content published in the group.

The court ruled on an application filed by Kishor Tarone, 33, a group administrator at WhatsApp.

He sought to set aside the case against him in Gondia in 2016 under sections 354-A (1) (iv) (making sexually explicit remarks), 509 (insulting a woman’s modesty) and 107 (support) by the IPC, and Section 67 (publication or transmission of obscene material in electronic form
form) of the Information Technology Act.

According to the indictment, Tarone did not take action against a member of his WhatsApp group who used dirty and obscene language against a member of the group.

It was alleged that the applicant, as the administrator of the group, had not removed or deleted the member of the group and had also not asked him to apologize. The court in its order said that the essence of the question is whether the administrator of the WhatsApp group can be held criminally liable for unsolicited publications made by a member of the group.

Noting the operation of the messaging app, the court said, “Group administrators, as they are commonly called, are the ones who create the group by adding or deleting members. Each chat group has one or more administrators.”

The group administrator has only limited authority to remove a member from the group or add other members to the group, the group said. “Once the group is created, the functioning of the administrator and that of the members is equal to each other, except for the power to add or delete members in
group, “the court said.

“The administrator of the WhatsApp group does not have the authority to regulate, moderate or censor the content before it is published in the group,” said HC. But if a member of the group publishes any content that is subject to action under the law, such a person could be held accountable, the court said.

“In the absence of a special penal provision creating vicarious liability, a WhatsApp group administrator cannot be held liable for unsolicited content posted by a group member unless it is proven that there was a general intent or pre-agreed plan,” the court said. in his order.

HC overturned and set aside the FIR filed against Tarone and the subsequent charge against him.

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