If you tend to frequently overlook messages sent through WhatsApp, Bombay HC's judgement in a case against an SBI account holder will make you think again!
Avoiding legal notices sent by your bank? If you are on WhatsApp, and the bank sends you a legal notice or any message notifying you about new developments with your account, the Bombay High Court has recently ruled that its contents are considered admissible evidence under the law. More importantly, the appearance of a blue tick is valid proof that you have received all the necessary documents.
The court passed this ruling responding to a case between Rohidas Jadhav, a resident of Nalasopara in Mumbai, and the State Bank of India and Payments Services Pvt Ltd. Back in 2011, a consumer court had ordered Rohidas to clear his credit card dues he had racked up along with interest. Since Rohidas kept changing his residence, the bank was unable to serve a legal notice to him.
The bank had his phone number, and recently an official sent a WhatsApp message via a PDF file, which contained the legal notice informing Rohidas about the next day of the hearing. In its ruling, the Bombay High Court said that the legal notice he received via WhatsApp is valid, and the appearance of a blue tick showed that he had opened and read its contents.
“For the purposes of service of the notice, I will accept this. I do so because the icon indicators clearly show that not only were the message and its attachment delivered to the respondent’s number but that both were opened,” said Justice Gautam Patel, according to Economic Times.
Some legal experts have praised the court’s ruling.
“It is pertinent to mention that Order V Rule 9(3) of Civil Procedure Code provides that a service can also be done through other means of transmission of documents, including fax or electronic mail service, and WhatsApp can be said to be one of the fool-proof modes of service of documents unless it can be shown that at the relevant time, the device was not used by the defendant for whatsoever reason. I feel that these kind of steps for effective service and speedier adjudication shall only make our justice system more effective,” said Indranil Ghosh, Partner with law firm Chambers of Rajan & Indraneel, to the Financial Express.
Defendants in such cases are legally entitled to receive all necessary documents. This ruling, which certifies the validity of WhatsApp as a medium for sending missing documents, could ensure that such legal proceedings are not delayed by defendants claiming he/she doesn’t have them.
Nonetheless, other legal experts have raised concerns with the ruling.
“A number of legislations have been made making electronic service of notices legal. Though in context of facts of a particular case, the Bombay High Court upheld the notice by WhatsApp as sufficient proof of delivery of the notice, this cannot be taken as a general rule. In order to prevent misuse, various safeguards will have to be incorporated in Civil Procedure Code, and till such amendments are made, one will have to proceed on the basis that delivery by WhatsApp is not a legal way of serving notice,” says Ashok Shah, Partner, NA Shah Associates LLP, to Financial Express.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)