Messaging service provider WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court Tuesday that it cannot preserve data because of end-to-end encryption. Its response followed the court’s direction to preserve and provide the information sought by Delhi Police in connection with the January 5 violence in the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus.
The court also issued directions to Google to preserve data as per law from Google Drive as early as possible. To which it said if the law enforcement agency provides it with user information, it can find out if the chat histories are backed up on Google Drive. If so, the same can be preserved and provided to the investigating agency, Google said.
The order was issued on a plea by three JNU professors Ameet Parameswaran, Atul Sood, and Shukla Vinayak Sawant, seeking to preserve CCTV footage, WhatsApp conversations and other evidence related to the January 5 violence in which over 30 students and teachers were injured.
Justice Brijesh Sethi asked police to seize the phones of members of two WhatsApp groups — Unity Against Left and Friends of RSS — on which the incident was allegedly plotted, besides summoning witnesses to the incident “at the earliest”.
It also directed JNU’s Chief Security Officer and Registrar to provide CCTV footage, between January 3 to January 5, of all cameras on campus to Delhi Police at the earliest. The State Bank of India was also asked to preserve and provide CCTV footage of their cameras on the campus.
Standing Counsel (Criminal) Rahul Mehra, appearing for Delhi Police, apprised the court it has already sent requests, including e-mails to WhatsApp, asking the company to follow the emergency route to provide data on users of the two groups.
“Police were yet to receive a reply,” Mehra said, adding the police has identified 37 persons who were part of the two groups, and notices have been sent to them to appear before it.
Mehra also handed over the status report to the court, detailing the steps taken with regard to the investigation into the violence. Police named nine students, including JNUSU president Aishe Ghosh, with regard to violence at Periyar and Sabarmati hostels. Crime Branch officers questioned three students, including Ghosh, on Monday.