The Delhi High Court today extended the time for filing replies by Facebook and WhatsApp to two notices issued to them by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) which has ordered a probe into the instant messaging app's new privacy policy.

WhatsApp and Facebook have challenged the CCI's June 4 and 8, 2021, notices respectively, asking them to furnish certain information for the purpose of inquiry conducted by it.

A Bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh noted that the Data Protection bill is yet to be finalised and, therefore, adjourned the proceedings to March 30.

The Court was hearing the appeals of Facebook and WhatsApp challenging its single-judge order dismissing their pleas against the probe ordered by the CCI into WhatsApp's new privacy policy.

Till then the time to file replies to the June 4 and June 8, last year, notices issued by CCI to the appellants (Facebook and WhatsApp) is extended, the bench said.

The Court had earlier granted time to the social media platforms to file replies to notices and thereafter, the time was further extended.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, representing WhatsApp, submitted that the Data Protection bill was tabled in the Parliament and the court had earlier granted time to file replies to the notices till October 11, 2021, but it could not be extended thereafter as the matter was not taken up.

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, appearing for CCI, contended that Data Protection bill is irrelevant to this controversy and that the case does not deal with privacy' but with the provisions of Competition Act relating to abuse of dominant position and inquiry into certain agreements and dominant position of an enterprise.

Meanwhile, the counsel for Facebook India submitted that he has filed an application seeking to be impleaded as a party to the case. However, the court asked him to file a fresh petition.

The case relates to the appeals of Facebook and WhatsApp against a single judge order dismissing their pleas against the probe CCI ordered into the instant messaging app's new privacy policy.

The Division Bench of the High Court had on May 6, 2021, issued notices on the appeals and asked the Centre to respond to it.

The single judge on April 22 last year, had said though it would have been "prudent" for the CCI to await the outcome of petitions in the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court against WhatsApp's new privacy policy, not doing so would not make the regulator's order "perverse" or "wanting of jurisdiction".

The Court had said it saw no merit in the petitions of Facebook and WhatsApp to interdict the investigation directed by the CCI.

The CCI had contended before the single judge that it was not examining the alleged violation of individuals' privacy which was being looked into by the Supreme Court.

It had argued before the Court that the new privacy policy of WhatsApp would lead to excessive data collection and "stalking" of consumers for targeted advertising to bring in more users and is, therefore, an alleged abuse of dominant position.

WhatsApp and Facebook had challenged the CCI's March 24, 2021, order directing a probe into the new privacy policy.

In January last year, the CCI on its own decided to look into WhatsApp's new privacy policy on the basis of news reports regarding the same.

With PTI inputs