If you are one of those who tend to ignore any message or notice sent through email or electronic means like WhatsApp, then think again. In the SBI Cards & Payments Services Pvt Ltd (applicant) Vs Rohidas Jadhav (respondent) case, the Bombay High Court has ruled that notice served through WhatsApp is valid.
In fact, Rohidas Jadhav, a Nalasopara resident, had run up some credit card dues and, following arbitration proceedings, was in the year 2011 ordered to pay back the amount due along with 8% interest. However, Jadhav couldn’t clear his dues and kept shifting his residence because of which the bank failed to serve the litigation notice to him. However, Jadhav’s phone number was available with SBI Cards. Therefore, the representative of the bank recently sent a message through WhatsApp informing Jadhav about the next date of hearing.
In its order, dated 11th June 2018, delivered by Justice G.S. Patel of the Bombay High Court, the Court accepted “service through WhatsApp” as a proper mode of service as mandated under the prescriptions of Order V of CPC.
“The Respondent to the Execution Application has been evading service of this Notice under Order XXI Rule 22 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908. He was served by an authorized officer of the Claimant, Ms Fatema Kalyanwala, by sending a PDF and message to his mobile number as a WhatsApp message. For the purposes of service of Notice under Order XXI Rule 22, I will accept this. I do so because the icon indicators clearly show that not only was the message and its attachment delivered to the Respondent’s number, but that both were opened,” Justice Patel said.
The court has also asked the bank to furnish the particulars of address of Jadhav so that a warrant, if necessary, can be issued against him.
View of Legal Experts
According to legal experts, the Honourable Court is required to ascertain that the requirements as specified in Order V are followed, like, annexing the summons; indicating the Court where the Petition is preferred; next date of hearing; time and the Plaint and documents annexed in support of the petition filed in Court. Therefore the High Court held, that “the icon indicators clearly show that not only was the message and its attachment delivered to the Respondent’s number but that both were opened.” Accordingly, the report of the ‘blue tick mark’ will indicate that the person on whom service was made has in fact received the same and thereby acknowledged it.
“This is in consonance with Order V of Civil Procedure Code,1908. It is pertinent to mention that Order V Rule 9(3) of CPC provides that a service can also be done through other means of transmission of documents, including fax or electronic mail service, and WhatsApp can be said to be one of the foolproof modes of service of documents unless it can be shown that at the relevant time, the device was not used by the defendant for whatsoever reason. I personally feel that these kind of steps for effective service and for speedier adjudication shall only make our justice system more effective,” says Indranil Ghosh, Partner with law firm Chambers of Rajan & Indraneel.
According to Ghosh, the practice of WhatsApp service can also go a long way to remove certain malpractices. For example, often the defendant complains of not receiving the full set of documents (which he is legally entitled to) as any missing or ineligible document served through WhatsApp can be identified and corrective measures can be taken, saving the precious time of Court.
What does the order mean?
As can be seen from the order – say some legal experts – serving of notices and summons through electronic means is now well recognised, provided there can be a reasonable presumption regarding actual delivery.
Therefore, from now on you can’t evade any message or notice sent to you even via WhatsApp, presuming that is not a legal way of sending a notice.
However, some experts are of the view that delivery by Whatsapp is not a legal way of serving notice. “In today’s world of information technology, electronic service of notice is going to be way of life. Like everything else, this should be a welcome step. Number of legislations have been made making electronic service of notices legal. Though in context of facts of a particular case, the Bombay High Court upheld the notice by Whatsapp as a sufficient proof of delivery of notice, this cannot be taken as a general rule. In order to prevent misuse, various safeguards will have to be incorporated in Civil Procedure Code and till such amendments are made, one will have to proceed on the basis that delivery by Whatsapp is not a legal way of serving notice,” says Ashok Shah, Partner, N.A Shah Associates LLP.