Validity Of Notice Served Through Electronic Mode
The Supreme Court has authorized the delivery of summonses and other legal notices via WhatsApp, Telegram, and email, a decision that would completely transform India's judicial system. The following describes the evolution in light of the Supreme Court and numerous High Courts allowing notices to be served electronically, including via email or WhatsApp:
Judge JS Patel of the Bombay High Court endorsed the use of WhatsApp for notice delivery in an execution application in SBI Cards & Payments Services Pvt. Ltd. v. Rohidas Jadhav1 (2018). It was found that in addition to being received, the PDF attachment of the served notification had also been opened.
"I shall accept this for the purposes of serving the
Notice under Order XXI Rule 22. I take this action because the
symbol indicators blatantly demonstrate that not only was
the message and its attachment delivered to the Respondent's number but that both were opened," Justice Patel observed.
In the case of Kross Television India Pvt. Ltd. v. Vikhyat Chitra Production2 (2017), in which he found that the Indian judicial system was adaptable enough to consider a notification sent by email or WhatsApp admissible in court, Judge Patel had previously established a precedent. For the notice to be deemed properly served, the plaintiff does not need to take excessive means such using a bailiff or the "beat of a drum." The court considered that the defendants had been properly notified. Nevertheless, a Delhi municipal court dismissed WhatsApp electronic service, arguing that the Delhi High Court had not established any rules permitting the complaint to carry out the service of the accused in complaint case by electronic mode. In an order issued in January 2017, it had stated that there is no option available with the court system to effect service through electronic method.
After that, Judge Rajiv Sahai Endlaw of the Delhi High Court issued an order on April 27, 2017 in Tata Sons Ltd & Ors v. John Doe3, in a defamation action, Judge Rajiv Sahai Endlaw of the Delhi High Court permitted the plaintiff to serve one of the defendants with the summons through email, text message, and Whatsapp. Court S.J. Kathawalla summoned defendants in a case involving trademark infringement and passing off using WhatsApp after traditional modes of service repeatedly failed in Meena Prints Pvt. Ltd. v. Vahini Enterprises and Anr4.
When examining contemporary methods of service such courier, email, and WhatsApp, the Bombay High Court stated in Dr. Madhav Vishwanath Dawalbhakta & ors. v. M/s. Bendale Brothers5 that "the soul of the service is to have the information of the proceedings to the defendant or the contesting party." In 2019, the Punjab-Haryana High Court while dealing with a run away couple in Monika Rani & Anr. v. State of Haryana & Ors6, allowed copies of FDRs in the girl's favour to be sent to her father through WhatsApp messaging.
The Kerala High Court permitted an Advocate Commissioner to serve notice on the parties through WhatsApp, email, or fax in January 2020, depending on what was practical. This occurred in a case involving alleged substandard living conditions in a medical college hostel. Within 12 hours of receiving the order, the Advocate Commissioner was instructed to visit the hostel. Before conducting the inspection, the Commissioner was likewise tasked with giving notification to the Medical College through fax, email, or WhatsApp, as appropriate.
The COVID-19 epidemic and a nationwide lockdown made it difficult to physically serve summonses, thus the Supreme Court approved the distribution of notifications, summonses, and other documents via WhatsApp in addition to email in July 2020. "It had stated impossible to serve notices, summonses, and pleadings during the lockdown because doing so entail going to post offices, using courier services, or delivering the documents in person". Hence, we believe it is reasonable to direct that all of the aforementioned services may be carried out by email, FAX, or popular instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, etc. However, we direct that in addition to doing so, the party must also serve the identical document(s) by email on the same date if they seek to effect service through said instant messaging services.
In Re Cognizance For Extension Of Limitation7, taking note of the difficulties for physical service of summons on account of lockdown and COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court has allowed the service of notices, summons and pleadings etc via email, FAX, tele messenger services such as Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal etc. The CJI observed "It has been brought to our notice that it was not possible to visit post offices for services of notices, summons, pleadings. Such service of all the above may be done through email, fax and other instant messenger services like Whatsapp and other telephone messenger services".
However, in a recent order passed by Registrar H. Shashidhara Shetty in the case of Hardev Ram Dhaka V Union Of India8, it was stated that notice served upon the respondents though e-mail or WhatsApp is not valid as per Supreme Court Rules.
There was a common practice that people played tactics of not receiving legal notice or documents so the courts had recognized the process of sending Legal notice via whatsapp, mail, fax. However, in 2023 order, the Registrar Court at the Supreme Court refused to accept the validity of serving legal notices through electronic modes. Therefore, modes such as dasti and courier etc. will be considered as valid modes of serving notice.
1. EXECUTION APPLICATION NO. 1196 OF 2015
2. 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 1433
3. CS (Comm.) 1601/2016
4. COMIP (L) NO. 1739 OF 2018
5. WRIT PETITION NO. 4217 OF 2018
6. CRM M-70 of 2019
7. In Re: Cognizance for Extension of Limitation, Suo Motu Writ (Civil) No. 3 of 2020
8. Writ Petition(s) (Civil) No(s). 611/2020
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