A Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, dismissed former RSS ideologue K.N. Govindacharya’s petition (W.P. (Crl) 324/2019) accusing WhatsApp of perjury for misleading the Supreme Court during the Facebook transfer petition “by claiming that users[‘] data is fully encrypted and no one including WhatsApp has the key”. However, Govindacharya has been given the liberty to refile. He had filed the petition against Facebook, WhatsApp, MeitY and Union of India in the Pegasus-NSO Group snooping row.
Govindacharya had filed a criminal writ petition asking the apex court to commence perjury proceedings against WhatsApp, and for a National Investigation Agency investigation and FIR against Facebook, WhatsApp and NSO Group under the Information technology Act, 2000, and Indian Penal Code, 1860.
‘Where is the proof of perjury?’ asks Court
The bench told the petitioner’s lawyers that for charges of perjury, they had not quoted from the submissions made in court. To that, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, on behalf of Govindacharya, offered to remove the prayer for perjury proceedings against WhatsApp, and file a revised petition. Non-substantiation of perjury was the issue in the petition, as per the court. Govindacharya was also represented by Virag Gupta.
‘Supreme Court is not the right forum’
Justice Bobde asked the petitioner’s lawyers why they had filed a perjury suit in the Supreme Court as it wasn’t the appropriate forum. He instead told them to file a Section 340 petition in the relevant court. Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing WhatsApp and Facebook, also agreed and said that the Supreme Court was not the right forum.
Justice Bobde said that the Supreme Court was not a trial court. The bench asked the petitioner to go to the high court to which Singh asked how he could do that since all the related matters have been transferred to the Supreme Court.
Apart from Justice Bobde, the bench constituted of Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant. The hearing lasted barely five minutes. Since this was the first hearing in the matter, notice hadn’t been issued to the respondents, but Rohatgi was there. MeitY and Union of India, the other two respondents in the petition, weren’t there.
Update: Appended court’s order on December 3 at 10:43 am.