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A first in Indian law: Ashok Khemka-led court orders summons on WhatsApp

Khemka in his order observed that law follows technological advancements and is not fossilised

Ashok Khemka

Press Trust of India  |  Chandigarh 

Ashok Khemka
Ashok Khemka

In a first, a court of the financial commissioner in Haryana, headed by IAS officer Ashok Khemka, has ordered serving of summons in a property dispute case on WhatsApp to one of the respondents who shifted to Kathmandu.

Summons in such cases are usually sent by registered post to the physical address of the respondents, but Khemka in his order observed that law follows technological advancements and is not fossilised.

The summons were ordered to be served on Whatsapp messenger service on April 6 to the respondent in a case involving a property partition dispute among three brothers in a village in Hisar district of Haryana. The court of financial commissioner is a quasi-judicial body.

In the case, the process server (court official) had submitted a report that one of the respondents no longer resides in the village and had shifted to Kathmandu, but his address there was not known.

A mobile phone number belonging to the respondent was provided by the petitioner. The respondent was informed over phone about the summons from the court by the process server and was asked to appear before the court on the appointed day.

However, the respondent refused to appear or to provide his address in Kathmandu, when asked.

Khemka, a senior Haryana bureaucrat, who also holds the court of financial commissioner to decide disputes related to revenue laws in the State, passed these orders while hearing the partition suit.

In this case, Satbir Singh had a dispute with his brothers Ramdiyal and Krishan Kumar over partition of a family property in the village in Hisar district.

When the court of the financial commissioner issued notice to both the brothers seeking their replies in the matter, Ramdiyal received the summons but these could not be served to Krishan as he had shifted to Kathmandu.

However, when Kumar was contacted over phone he refused to appear or provide his address in Kathmandu, the order mentions.

Khemka in his order observed that the modern age is highly mobile due to technological advancements.

“The physical address is no longer permanent as before and keeps changing. But electronic mail address and mobile phone number of a person is relatively more permanent than his physical address. The law is not fossilised. Law is a living concept and follows technological advancements. An email address or a mobile phone number is also the address of a person in the present times.”

The Court in its order mentioned that Order V Rule 9 (2) of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) specifies that summons may be sent in such manner as the Court may direct and in Rule 9(3) any other means of transmission is provided.

After it was established that the mobile number of Krishan Kumar was active and he was using WhatsApp, Khemka’s court directed that a clear image of the summons notice bearing the seal of the court be sent on his number.

“It is, therefore, directed that a clear image of the summons notice bearing the seal of the Court shall be sent to the respondent in Kathmandu through the Whatsapp messenger from a designated mobile phone number and the same shall be treated as proper mode of service as provided in Order V Rule 10 of the CPC.

“A printout of the delivery report of Whatsapp messenger authenticated by the signature of the counsel will be taken as proof of valid service,” Khemka held in his order.

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First Published: Sat, April 08 2017. 22:38 IST