In a case filed by Jagran Prakashan group, the Delhi High Court ordered messaging service Telegram to remove several channels distributing the Dainik Jagran newspaper’s PDF versions. The order also instructs Telegram to reveal the identity of the individual(s) distributing the paper illegally. The ruling was first reported by Bar & Bench.

This is the message that shows up when trying to access the links mentioned in the order, so the app appears to have taken the links down:

Screengrab from Telegram app.

While Telegram has told the Jagran Prakashan group that it has taken down some of these links, they did not take part in the case against them at the Delhi High Court. It is unclear if Telegram, which is based in Dubai, will comply with the order to reveal the identities of the people running these Telegram channels. We have reached out to the company for further information.

The unmasking order comes as parts of the Indian government have increasingly been holding chat group admins legally responsible for content posted by participants. This has happened in Mumbai where police said that group admins will be “personally” held responsible for fake news; similarly in Kupwara, Kashmir, group admins were required to register with the district government; in Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, staff were told to submit details on their WhatsApp groups’ admins.

This also comes as the Supreme Court considers arguments in the WhatsApp traceability case, where petitioners (and the government) have been trying to pressure the social media giant into unmasking the originators of misinformation. Simultaneously, the Ministry of Information & Technology has been moving to change the intermediary liability regime to require, among other things, traceability from services like WhatsApp and Telegram.

The Departments of Technology and Electronics & Information Technology both said they had no control over Telegram and said it was not proper for them to be impleaded in this case. In the past, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology said it would not be blocking Telegram in response to a court case filed in the Kerala High Court. So it is unclear what the consequences for Telegram could be if it does not unmask users sharing the newspaper illegally.

Telegram’s website is blocked on Reliance Jio, and in October 2019, an NLSIU student filed a case in the Kerala High Court to ban the app in India.

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