The Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the Centre to reply to the pleas raised by Facebook and WhatsApp challenging the new IT Rules, 2021 under which the social media intermediaries are required to trace chats and make arrangements to identify the originator of the information.

The social media giants have objected to these rules contending that they breach the 'Right to Privacy' and are unconstitutional.

WhatsApp has contended that the need to identify the originator of information defeats the very purpose of 'end-to-end encryption and its benefits 'at risk.' Further, it was argued that the High Court should declare Rule 4(2) of the Intermediary Rules as unconstitutional, ultra-vires to the IT Act and illegal.

Their plea claimed that the traceability requirement breaches the fundamental right to privacy and free speech of the millions of citizens who are using the instant messaging app (WhatsApp) to communicate freely in a secured manner.

Additionally, the plea said that WhatsApp allows people belonging to different professions discuss confidential information with their clients/patients including financial/government institutions who communicate privately without the fear of anyone listening to their conversations.

"There is no way to predict which message will be the subject of such a tracing order. Therefore, the petitioner would be forced to build the ability to identify the first originator for every message sent in India on its platform upon request by the government forever. This breaks end-to-end encryption and the privacy principles underlying it, and impermissibly infringes upon users' fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of speech," the petition said.

A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh has issued a notice to the Centre through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to file their reply and also, the application for a stay on the imposition of the Rules.

The matter is listed for the next hearing on October 22.

With inputs from PTI