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HC asks police, WhatsApp, Google, Apple to respond to plea for preserving data on JNU violence


New Delhi : The Delhi High Court Monday asked the Delhi government and the police as also WhatsApp, Google and Apple to respond to a plea of three JNU professors seeking that data, CCTV footage and other evidence relating to the January 5 violence on the varsity campus be preserved.

Delhi Police informed the court that it has asked the JNU administration to preserve and hand over the CCTV footage of the violence but has not yet received any response from the university.

Justice Brijesh Sethi issued the notice and listed the matter for further hearing on Tuesday.

The court was informed by Delhi government Standing Counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra that police has written to the concerned authority in the varsity for preserving footage of 135 CCTVs installed there.

He said police has also written to WhatsApp to preserve data, including messages, pictures, videos and phone numbers of members, of two groups -- 'Unity Against Left' and 'Friends of RSS' -- on the social networking platform on which the attack was allegedly coordinated.

The police is taking steps regarding preservation of evidence, including video footage and data and it has asked the varsity to provide CCTV footage between January 3 and January 6, he added.

The petition was filed by JNU professors Ameet Parameswaran, Atul Sood and Shukla Vinayak Sawant seeking directions to the Delhi Police Commissioner and Delhi government. It sought direction to the Delhi Police to retrieve all CCTV footage of JNU campus.

On January 5, a mob of masked men stormed the campus and targeted students in three hostels, unleashing mayhem with sticks, stones and iron rods by hitting inmates and breaking windows, furniture and personal belongings.

Three FIRs have been registered at Vasant Kunj (north) police station in the incident.

Senior advocate Rebecca John and Akhil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner professors, sought an urgent interim relief that WhatsApp be directed to preserve the data of the two groups as they could delete the material evidence.

The court, however, said it would pass any such order only after hearing the parties. No one on behalf of WhatsApp, Google and Apple was present in the court.

The plea, filed through advocates Abhik Chimni, Maanav Kumar and Roshni Naamboodiry, it sought a direction to the Delhi Police to retrieve all CCTV footage of JNU campus.

It 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 platform, and its data back-up is an important evidence in respect of the incidents of violence.

"In order to ensure that the relevant evidence may be preserved, JNU teachers association (JNUTA) has sent requests/ representations to respondent nos. 1 (Police Commissioner), 3 (WhatsApp) and 4 (Google), asking that all these materials be safely retrieved for investigation purposes.

"In these representations, JNUTA has cited relevant provisions of the respondent no.3's Terms of Use, Information Technology Act, 2000, Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011 and other applicable laws. The petitioner no.2 has also sent similar request/representation to the respondent no.3," the plea said.

However, the police has neither responded to such requests placed by one of the petitioners and JNUTA nor has it reached out to them, or other informants, despite clear and cogent material provided to the investigating agency along with the written representations, it claimed.

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

It claimed that as per the knowledge of the petitioners as well as news reports, the police has not yet retrieved CCTV footage, which is crucial evidence.



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