JNU violence: Delhi HC asks police to seize mobile phones of WhatsApp group members

New Delhi [India], Jan 14 (ANI): The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the police to seize mobile phones of the members of two WhatsApp groups allegedly used to coordinate attack on JNU students and faculty earlier this month.

Justice Brijesh Sethi directed the university to provide CCTV footage, sought by police, as soon as possible. The court also directed WhatsApp and Google to preserve and provide information sought by police in accordance with law on a plea seeking to preserve and retrieve all relevant materials and evidence available related to the violence in the campus on January 5.

The police have been directed to summon individuals who are a part of either one or both groups -- 'Friends of RSS' and 'Unity against Left' -- and confiscate their phones in connection with the matter.

Meanwhile, counsel for the Delhi Police told the court, "We have initiated the process. We have identified 37 people of the WhatsApp groups. Some are absconding but we will call all of them."

Three professors of JNU -- Ameet Parameswaran, Atul Sood and Shukla Vinayak Sawant -- had recently approached the Delhi High Court through a petition seeking to preserve CCTV footage, preservation of data of social media and other evidence related to January 5 violence at the university campus.

Senior advocates Rebecca John, Akhil Sibal, Maanav Kumar and Roshni Naamboodiry, appearing on behalf of the professors, had sought directions for preservation and retrieval of all materials and evidence available with WhatsApp, Google and Apple pertaining to relevant data of the two WhatsApp groups including messages, pictures and videos and phone numbers of the members, related to JNU violence.

During the course of hearing, counsel for Google argued that WhatsApp should share the email address. "If they do so we will preserve it," the counsel said.

Responding to the same, WhatsApp said, "We do not have access to the chat content. We will put it on affidavit."

"It works on end to end encryption and the only way to access and preserve it is by preserving the phone of those persons. I am willing to do what law intends to. No technology to break through that encryption," the counsel for WhatsApp further said. (ANI)