The court also asked the Centre and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to consider if such over-the-top (OTT) services could be brought under a statutory framework to protect the interest of users.
The aggrieved users had also sought directions to be issued to the Centre and Trai to frame rules under the Information Technology Act 2000 to regulate such messaging services.
Unlike traditional telecom operators, there are currently no rules to regulate OTT platforms. The lack of guidelines on encryption standards for these entities, also have the potential to pose national security concerns.
Trai had earlier submitted in the court that the government did not have the power to regulate the conduct and policy decisions of OTT platforms such as WhatsApp under the current legal structure.
The court directed WhatsApp to erase all information, data and details of users who choose to delete their accounts. The Bench also prohibited the messaging service from sharing any data or information acquired till September 25, from users who decide to opt out of the new policy.
“This is a path-breaking judgment to protect the right to privacy. The court has passed this order because of the importance given by WhatsApp to privacy in its own earlier policy,” said senior advocate Pratibha Singh, counsel for the petitioners, after the pronouncement was made by the court.