NEW DELHI: The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has held the Bombay High Court’s judgment delivered earlier this year in the WhatsApp group administrator case. The court held that a WhatsApp group administrator cannot be made liable for offensive content posted by the members of the group.
Justice G R Swaminathan directed the Karur district police to delete the name of an advocate, who was an admin of a WhatsApp group called Karur lawyers. The bench said that the lawyer R Rajendra should not be made the face of the criminal proceedings if he had only played the role of a group administrator.
The court further added that Rajendran can be held liable if the police find any other evidence or material against him.
Earlier this year Bombay High Court gave a judgment that reads, “A group administrator has limited power of removing a member of the group or adding other members of the group…The administrator of a WhatsApp group does not have power to regulate, moderate or censor the content before it is posted on the group. But, if a member of the WhatsApp group posts any content, which is actionable under law, such person can be held liable under relevant provisions of law. In the absence of specific penal provision creating vicarious liability, an administrator of a WhatsApp group cannot be held liable for objectionable content posted by a member of a group. A group administrator cannot be held vicariously liable for an act of a member of the group, who posts objectionable content, unless it is shown that there was common intention or pre-arranged plan acting in concert pursuant to such plan by such member of a WhatsApp group and the administrator.”
In the present case, some ‘highly offensive’ posts were shared in a group chat by a member of a group Pachaiyappan. After this incident, he was removed from the group and was later re-inducted as a member again. As a result of this incident, another member of the group, also a lawyer, filed a complaint with Thanthonimalai police and a case was registered in August 2020.
The FIR filed also included Rajendran’s name and he then moved to the high court for quashing the FIR.