The admin of the group cannot be held criminally responsible if an objectionable post is made by any other member in the WhatsApp group. The Napur Bench of the Bombay High Court delivered this verdict and quashed the sexual harassment case against a 33-year-old man.

The order was passed last month and a copy of it was made available on April 22. A divisional bench headed by Justices ZA Haq and AB Borkar said that the WhatsApp group administrator has limited powers like adding and removing members. Admin can’t censor or control objectionable content posted by any other member.

The Court passed this order with reference to an application filed by Kishor Taron (33). Kishor Taron wanted that in Gondia district within the year 2016 under Indian Penal Code sections 354-A(1)(iv) (commenting in a sexual sense), 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman) and 107 (provocation) and The case against him for IT Act section 67 (publishing or transmitting objectionable material in electronic form) should be quashed.
According to the indictment, Taron did not take any action against a female member of the group against a hate speech posted by another member.

It was alleged that the applicant, being the group admin, neither removed the member from the group nor asked him to apologize to him for using abusive language. The court said that the essence of the whole matter comes down to whether the WhatsApp group admin should be held criminally responsible for the objectionable posts made by other members or not.

Keeping in mind the working of this messaging service app, the court said, “Group admin is a person who creates a group and adds or removes members to it. Each chat group can have more than one admin.”

“The group manager has only limited power to remove or add members. Once a group is created, admins and members have the same functionality, except to add or remove members.”

“WhatsApp’s group admin does not have the power to regulate or censor the content before it is posted. Yes, if any member posts any objectionable content in the group then that member can be held responsible for that.”

“In the absence of a special penal provision creating representative liability, a WhatsApp group admin cannot be held responsible for objectionable content posted by other members, unless there is a collusion or a premeditated plan.” Court said.

The FIR and the chargesheet filed against Taron were dismissed by the High Court.

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