WhatsApp Group Admins, Keep Distance From Malicious Posts To Avoid Jail

Are you an administrator of a WhatsApp group with malicious content posted on it? Make it clear that you do not subscribe to it and keep your distance to avoid landing in jail.

That’s what Supreme Court Advocate Apar Gupta suggests. You must delete all messages and disassociate yourself from any individual who posts anti-national or seditious content on WhatsApp to avoid a run-in with the authorities, Gupta told BloombergQuint in an interview.

WhatsApp group administrators have come under scrutiny after a number of mob lynching incidents were linked to fake news on the social messaging platform. Also, a 21-year-old group administrator in Madhya Pradesh has been in jail for five months following an allegedly objectionable message posted by a member in a group that he was the administrator of, according to a PTI report.

Also read: Government Sets Up Committee To Curb Mob Violence, Lynching

He was the ‘default’ administrator after two members quit the group, the news report said. The police charged him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including 124A (sedition) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), and the Information Technology Act.

But is it legal to arrest someone only because of the content on a WhatsApp group? The answer has more to do with the police rather than the law, said Gupta

If you lack power and the police wants to victimise you and the complainant is someone who is powerful in that group itself, there are good chances you will go to jail.
Apar Gupta, Advocate, Supreme Court

“If the law by itself is not predictable in its application and rests on the subjectivity of who you are, who is the prosecuting officer and who is the complainant, it is a terrible thing,” said Gupta. It’s unfortunate that self-censorship and regulation is needed to make up for deficiencies in Indian law, he said.