The Kerala High Court ruled that administrators of WhatsApp groups are not responsible for offensive posts made by group members. A chargesheet filed against an admin of a WhatsApp group, who was brought to trial as an accused in a case enrolled under appropriate sections of the POCSO Act and IT Act, later quashed by the Bench of Justice Kauser Edappagath.
What’s the case?
- Manual, a 22-year-old Alappuzha district native, started a WhatsApp group called FRIENDS. He was the group’s administrator. On March 29, 2020, one of the group’s members posted a porn video portraying children engaging in sexually explicit behaviour.
- the Ernakulam City police filed a case against the person for violating Sections 67B (a)(b) and (d) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, as well as Sections 13, 14, and 15 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act, 2012.
- Subsequently, as the group’s creator, the admin Manual was named as the second accused. The final report was submitted by the police, and it is now awaiting trial at the Additional Sessions (Cases Relating to Atrocities and Sexual Violence Against Women and Children) Court in Ernakulam. Manual filed a petition with the Kerala High Court to have the case against him dismissed because he was charged solely because he was the administrator of the group.
What does the Court have to say in this Issue ?
The court considered whether the petitioner in the case, the admin, has vicarious liability or is accountable for the actions of the social media group member. A vicarious criminal liability imposed only by a statutory provision and not otherwise. Admin of a WhatsApp group cannot be liable for an objectionable post made by a group member in the absence of a special penal law establishing vicarious liability.
The admin of a WhatsApp group has no master-servant or principal-agent relationship with its members. To hold an admin liable for a post made by someone else in the group goes against basic principles of criminal law.
The Court acquitted him of the charges filed by Ernakulam City Police Authorities.
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