Kerala HC Seeks Centre's Views On Plea To Ban Telegram App

Kerala HC Seeks Centre

The High Court of Kerala on Friday sought the views of the Central Government on a plea to ban messaging platform 'Telegram'.

The matter will be posted next after three weeks.

Assistant Solicitor General P Vijayakumar told the bench of Acting Chief Justice C K Abdul Rehim and Justice Anu Sivaraman that the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to submit its views about guidelines to check abuse of social media. The Centre has told the SC that the issue is under the active consideration of the government, informed the ASG.

The Public Interest Litigation petition filed by Athena Solomon, an LLM student of National Law School of India University Bengaluru, sought a ban on 'Telegram' by stating that it was unregulated, and was promoting child pornography and terrorism/

The petition stated that Telegram allows for anonymous posting of messages. This facility is being widely misused to circulate obscene and vulgar contents featuring women and children, contended the petition. The app, launched in Russia in 2013, allows for 'anonymous bots', using which secret messages can be circulated, completely shielding the identity of the person sending them.

As per section 79(3) of the Information Technology Act 2000, an intermediary is bound to remove or block content on instructions from appropriate authorities. Since Telegram has no nodal officer or registered office in India, unlike other social media intermediaries like Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it is not possible to enforce intermediary liability against it, the petitioner said.

Also, Telegram is highly encrypted, making it nearly impossible for law enforcement agencies to trace out the originators of criminal contents being circulated through it.

The petitioner has cited several Telegram channels facilitating sharing of obscene content, which have thousands of subscribers. The Cyberdome of Kerala police had busted a pedophile group which was promoting content through Telegram, the petition pointed out.

"Telegram is a different world for its users with no government control", stated the petition.

Though child pornography is banned in India, Telegram is working as an alternative for accessing the same.

The petitioner also stated that the app was used for promoting terrorism. It is being widely used by terrorists and anti-nationals to groom and train the youth and to pass on specific instructions to execute their plans. :

"Due to the secretive nature of messages on 'Telegram , it has been widely criticized by governments across the world for becoming the messaging platform for terrorists. The messaging platform was banned in Russia back in April 2018 after a court ruling banned it from the country until the application provides keys, citing the threat of criminals and terrorists using free encrypted platform for communication.

Telegram was also blocked by Indonesia citing concerns that it was being used to spread radical and terrorist propaganda", the petition stated.

The petitioner therefore sought a direction to the Union Government to take steps to ban the messaging platform.

The Madras High Court is at present holding proceedings to ascertain means to trace out the identities of originators of criminal contents in Whatsapp, Facebook etc. The video app 'Tik Tok' was banned by Madras HC in April citing concerns of pornography. The ban was later lifted after Tik Tok approached the Supreme Court.