WhatsApp group admins not liable for members’ posts

P2P News

Nagpur, 27 April: The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has ruled that administrators of groups on messaging platform WhatsApp cannot be held responsible for any post.

 “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,” the division bench of Justices Zaka Haq and Amir Borkar said.

Quashing a complaint against a man from Maharashtra’s Gondia for alleged sexual harassment under Section 354-A(1)(iv), read along with Sections 509 and 107 of the IPC and Section 67 of the IT Act, 2000, the bench said a group admin doesn’t have power to regulate, moderate or censor the content before it is posted.
“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 court said.

Petitioner Kishor Tarone had moved court after a woman accused him, the admin of a WhatsApp group, of not removing a member who had used obscene language against her. She also alleged that the petitioner failed to ask the member to apologise and instead expressed helplessness.
The judges said when a person creates a WhatsApp group, they can’t be expected to presume or to have advance knowledge of any illegal intent of a member. “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. It is pertinent to remember that in 2016, the Delhi High Court had also pronounced the same judgment.