Delhi High Court notice to Google, Apple and WhatsApp on petition to preserve data on January 5 violence in JNU

The Delhi High Court on Monday issued notice to internet companies Apple, Google and WhatsApp on petitions of three professors of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The professors had approached the court on Friday seeking directions to preserve data, CCTV footage and other evidence relating to the January 5 violence on JNU campus.

The petition filed by Ameet Parameswaran, Atul Sood and Shukla Vinayak Sawant also sought directions for preservation and retrieval of all material/evidences available with the three companies pertaining to relevant data of WhatsApp groups ‘Unity Against Left’ and ‘Friends of RSS’ including messages, pictures, videos and phone numbers of the members.

The Delhi Police, which is investigating the January 5 violence, told the court on Monday that it wrote to WhatsApp seeking details of the two groups and is waiting for response. The police also said that it has already sought CCTV footage, however, there is no response from JNU.

On January 5, a mob of masked men stormed the university campus and attacked students and teachers with sticks, stones and iron rods and breaking windows, furniture and personal belongings. More than 30 students, including JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) president Aishe Ghosh were injured in the attack.

Three FIRs have been registered at Vasant Kunj (north) police station in the incident. The plea claimed it was evident that a significant amount of data, information, evidence and material pertaining to the said incident of violence, including persons with their registered phone numbers responsible for the same, was communicated through WhatsApp’s platform, and its data back-up is an important evidence in respect of the incidents of violence.

The plea said the petitioners are concerned that in the absence of a direction from the court or the police commissioner, the relevant evidence may not be properly preserved.

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