On Friday the Bombay High Court said that legal notices sent on phone messaging application WhatsApp will be treated as valid evidence in court. A legal notice received will be treated same as receiving a physical copy of the notice.
The high court made its observation while hearing a case filed by State Bank of India’s card payments division. In the case, SBI informed the court that their client, Rohit Jadhav, a resident of Mumbai, was evading their calls and notices.
SBI went on to inform the court that on June 8 an officer authorised by them served a legal notice to Mr Jadhav via WhatsApp. “The PDF file (legal notice) was not only delivered but was opened as well,” they informed the court.
The PDF file also informed Mr Jadhav about the next date of hearing in court. This was done after Mr Jhadav repeatedly evaded their calls and avoided meeting their officers. The WhatsApp message, however, was seen, opened and read by Mr Jadhav, as indicated by the messaging app’s ‘blue tick’ and ‘message info’ icon.
“For the purpose of service of notice under Order XXI Rule 22 of the Code of Civil Procedure. I will accept this. I do so because not only was the message and its attachment delivered to the respondent’s number but that both were opened as well.” Justice Gautam Patel, who was hearing the case said.
The high court has asked SBI to provide Mr Jadhav’s residential address on the next date of hearing so that a warrant, if necessary, can be issued against him.
Mr Jadhav, who is a repeat offender in credit card defaults, owns SBI over Rs. 1 lakh in dues. In 2010, he had defaulted on payment of credit card dues amounting to Rs. 85,000. In 2011, he lost a case in court and was ordered to pay the amount along with the interest on it.
According to the law, a legal notice can be served to an individual or firm via registered post or by visiting in person. However, this has changed in recent times after the electronic communication such as e-mails & text messages as legal evidence.