Privacy probe: Delhi High Court refuses to stay CCI notice to WhatsApp, Facebook

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June 24, 2021 5:15 AM

However, it urged “the DG, CCI to bear in mind that the investigation against the appellant is under judicial consideration before a division bench of this court” and the matter would be taken by the regular bench on July 9.

The HC had on Monday reserved its order in the matter.The HC had on Monday reserved its order in the matter.

The Delhi High Court has refused to stay the notice issued by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to WhatsApp and its parent firm Facebook seeking certain information with regard to its probe into the messaging platform’s new privacy policy.

The HC had on Monday reserved its order in the matter.

The division bench comprising justices Anup Jairam Bhambhani and Jasmeet Singh, while refusing to interfere at this stage, said there is no doubt that the issuance of impugned notice by the director general investigation of CCI is a step in furtherance of the investigation commenced in the suo motu case, in which the investigation is a subject matter of the challenge in an appeal. “…We do not consider it appropriate to stay the operation of impugned notice of June 4, 2021 at this stage…” the HC stated.

However, it urged “the DG, CCI to bear in mind that the investigation against the appellant is under judicial consideration before a division bench of this court” and the matter would be taken by the regular bench on July 9.

The vacation bench also noted that the stand taken by additional solicitor general Aman Lekhi that the issuance of notice on June 4 was perfectly in line with the procedure contemplated under the statute for taking forward an ongoing investigation. “The notice has not been stayed by the division bench and it would take substantial time for preparation of a report pursuant to the receipt of the information called for by way of the impugned notice; which report would thereafter be forwarded to the CCI,” the ASG said, adding that the preparation of the report would not be completed at least before the next date of hearing before the regular bench on July 9.

“The high court seems to be taking a balanced approach in this case. While on the one hand, the HC has not been persuaded by the petitioners in seeking a stay on providing information to the DG, the high court has also asked the DG to bear in mind that the issue is under consideration by the HC. At this stage, it appears that WhatsApp will have to cooperate with the DG investigation. However, the order seems to imply that some protection has been extended to Facebook/Whatsapp with respect to any coercive action by the CCI/DG until the next date of hearing,” Charanya Lakshmikumaran, partner, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan Attorneys, said.

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