In response to the petition seeking a ban on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, the Kerala High Court (HC) on October 4 directed the central government to file their response on the same.
The petition was filed by a law student from Bengaluru, Athena Solomon K, on October 1. She alleged that Telegram was being used to upload and share inappropriate content, including child pornography.
The petition has also referred to an incident of April 2019, where Kerala Police had arrested an 11-member gang involved in sharing child pornography through social media platforms, which also included Telegram. Moreover, the states’ police also caught an admin of a paedophile group on Telegram, back in 2017.
The writ also highlighted that Telegram does not have any nodal officer or a registered office in the country and has been operating in the country without any licence from any authorities.
When the petition came up, counsel for the Union government Jaishankar V. Nair maintained that the draft rules for regulating messaging apps are being finalised. The government’s representative also added that similar petitions were pending before the Supreme Court (SC).
Founded in 2013 by Russian brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov, UK-based Telegram boasts about advanced “secret chat” function which allows users to activate notifications when someone takes a screenshot of a conversation, disables message-forwarding capabilities, and also allows users to delete messages on any device. Like WhatsApp, it also offers end-to-end encryption
The petition comes at a time when the Indian government has been anxiously seeking traceability on WhatsApp due to the allegations of spreading fake news and misinformation, which allegedly triggered mob lynchings in India.
The case regarding the Tamil Nadu government’s demand for WhatsApp traceability was transferred to the Supreme Court on August 2019. The case was previously being heard by the Madras High Court. However, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has been reluctant to provide traceability as it would hamper “user-privacy.”
The Indian government is also formulating policies to regulate all social media platforms to avoid any “objectionable content” surfacing online.