In at least 15 bail orders passed during this month by Justice Anoop Chitkara of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, the accused were asked to furnish the details of their AADHAR Card, phone number(s), WhatsApp number, e-mail address, Facebook account, etc.
Justice Chitkara directed the accused to furnish the abovementioned details, along with details of their personal bank account(s), Pan Card and Passport, if available, on the reverse page of the personal bonds and clarified that the Court/ Prosecution will be at liberty to serve notices on the accused, through the abovementioned mediums.
"There shall be a presumption of proper service to the petitioner about the date of hearing in the trial Court, even if such service takes place through phone/mobile/SMS/WhatsApp/E-Mail/Facebook or any other similar medium, by the trial Court, or by the Prosecution," the orders state.
It is further stipulated that if the accused fails to enter appearance based on such notice, then the trial Court may issue "Non-Bailable warrants" to procure his/ her presence.
These cases related to a range of offences punishable under the IPC, NDPS Act, SC/ST Atrocities Act, etc.
Service of summons through social media has previously been experimented by a handful of High Courts including those of Allahabad, Bombay, Delhi, Kerala and Punjab and Haryana, that allowed service through Whatsapp, text message and email.
Whatsapp Summons : Positive Trends Of Courts Embracing Technology
Back in 2104, the Supreme Court while issuing guidelines for speedy disposal of cases under Section 138, Negotiable Instruments Act, asked the courts to issue Summons both by post as well as via E-mail.
In 2017, the Bombay High Court accepted the served intimation and information via Whatsapp as service of notice, after one of the defendants in a copyright infringement case was being particularly evasive.
A month later, Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw of the Delhi High Court also permitted a Plaintiff to serve the summons on one of the defendants through Whatsapp, text message and email.
In 2018, the Bombay High Court again suggested that courts can opt for "modern ways of service", while ordering substituted service of summons. "The Court can take into account the modern ways of service which are available due to internet connection. It can be served also by courier or by email or by WhatsApp etc.," Justice Mridula Bhatkar had observed.
However, this is the first time that any court has imposed furnishing details of social media accounts as a precondition for bail and has allowed service of notice via social media in criminal cases.