The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Central government and WhatsApp after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed against the instant messaging app seeking directions to restrain the app from proceeding with its payments systems until it complies with the norms laid by the RBI to setup a payment service in the country. A bench of Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Indu Malhotra sought responses from WhatsApp, Law and Justice Ministry, Finance Ministry, and Information Technology Ministry within four weeks.
Appearing for the petitioner Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change, advocate Virag Gupta said that the messaging platform does not comply with provision of mandating a Grievance Officer and other laws of India including Know Your Customer (KYC) norms laid down by the RBI. The plea said that while Facebook and Google have appointed Grievance Officers for users in India, WhatsApp has not.
“WhatsApp is a foreign company with no office or servers in India. To run Payments Service in India, WhatsApp is obligated to have its office and payments in India. Moreover, it is also required to have a Grievance Officer for users in India. Yet, it is being allowed to continue with its Payments and other services, without any checks,” the plea said.
“The Grievance Officer of Facebook sits in Ireland, and the Grievance Officer of Google sits in USA and are thus rendered ineffective. In order to make Respondent No. 6 (WhatsApp) accountable, it must be directed to comply with Indian Law and appoint Grievance Officer, who shall be the person to address grievance of consumers, as well as co-ordinate with investigating agencies," it noted. WhatsApp has over 200 million users in India and almost one million people are "testing" WhatsApp's payments service in India, which is the largest base for the Facebook-owned company that has over 1.5 billion users globally, the petition claimed.