The Delhi High Court directed the Indian Banks Association (IBA) to conduct a meeting of concerned sub-groups and sub-committees to ensure that all Banks follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) concerning information disclosure mechanisms to law enforcement agencies.

The Court listed the matter for April 6, 2024.

The Bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh observed, “it appears that the SOP and the manner in which the SOPs have to be implemented by all the Banks is still a work in progress. Let the IBA hold the meeting of the concerned sub-groups and sub-committee in order to ensure that all Banks follow the SOP in respect of information disclosure mechanism to the law enforcement agencies”.

Advocate Anirudh Bakhru appeared for the Plaintiff and Senior Advocates Dayan Krishnan and Darpan Wadhwa appeared for the Defendant.

These proceedings concerned domain names registered by unknown third parties, infringing trademark rights of various brand owners, and the enforcement of court orders by Domain Name Registrars (DNRs), some of which may be located outside India. The Court had issued various directions regarding blocking and locking infringing domain names and implementing court orders by DNRs.

Recently, Defendants contended that in response to grievances raised by law enforcement agencies against banks, notices were issued to banks, and meetings were directed between the Ministry of Home Affairs and bank authorities for better coordination. Two developments have occurred:

1. HDFC Bank reported a high-level meeting convened by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and other officials, emphasizing the need for banks to expedite the provision of information to law enforcement agencies. The Indian Banks Association (IBA) and RBI have taken cognizance of this issue.

2. RBI filed an affidavit detailing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for information exchange between banks and law enforcement agencies, circulated to all banks and relevant agencies.

Amul-Franchise.In presented the SOP, emphasizing strict deadlines for banks to provide information to law enforcement upon request. HDFC Bank has already nominated executives for a sub-group as requested by IBA. Similarly, the State Bank of India (SBI) has nominated officials for the sub-group and provided their SOP for information requests. However, Defendant argued that as of January 2024, SBI has not provided the information requested by the Cyber Cell of Delhi Police.

The implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for information disclosure by banks to law enforcement agencies was ongoing. The Court directed the Indian Banks Association (IBA) to convene meetings of sub-groups and sub-committees to ensure all banks adhere to the SOP.

Mr. Srinivasarao, Senior Advisor of IBA, was summoned for an appearance, and the registry was directed to issue notice to him. HDFC Bank's Nodal Officer was present as ordered previously.

The RBI's affidavit and email from HDFC's counsel were to be provided to Ms Sethi, representing Delhi Police. A status report from Delhi Police in a related matter indicated notices have been sent to Domain Name Registrars (DNRs) and banks for information. They were required to provide this information promptly, or face consequences.

Mr Wadhwa, representing GoDaddy, discusses legal options regarding non-compliant DNRs, referencing a previous court order. The proceedings were adjourned to the next hearing.

In another case (CS(COMM) 135/2022), Hosting Concepts B.V., a DNR based in the European Union, sought to file written submissions within four weeks. Mr. Harish V. Shankar, CGSC, was instructed to obtain instructions from relevant officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and file an affidavit within four weeks.

Accordingly, the Court listed the matter for April 6, 2024.

Cause Title: Dabur India Limited v Ashok Kumar And Ors (2024:DHC:842)

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