WhatsApp notice to be legally admissible

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Bombay High Court has confirmed acceptance of communication over WhatsApp Messenger as proof of notice of a case, observing that defendants who avoid and evade service by regular modes cannot be permitted to take advantage of that evasion.

In Kross Television India Pvt Ltd v Vikhyat Chitra Production, Kross – the Indian remake right holder of a Korean movie called Miracle in Cell No. 7 – was seeking permanent injunction claiming copyright infringement against producers of a Kannada film, Pushpaka Vimana. The high court initially issued an interim injunction restraining further exhibition and distribution of the Kannada film in any manner or in any medium.

Kross then attempted to serve copies of the suit, application and injunction order on the Kannada film producers at their addresses procured from the Central Board of Film Certification by courier and hand delivery. As the producers could not be found at these addresses, advocates for Kross attempted to contact Vikhyat Chitra on his mobile number as shown by the Truecaller mobile phone app, which was also reflected on his WhatsApp contact information. Copies of the documents were sent via WhatsApp to which the following response was received: “I didn’t understand anything. Will check with my legal team and I’ll text you back. I am out of station.”

In the absence of the defendants, the court held that giving notice by WhatsApp and email was valid. The court observed that the purpose of service is to notify and give a copy of the papers to the other party. A plaintiff does not have to resort to a bailiff or the “beat of a drum” for the notice to be properly served. The court restrained defendants from awarding any satellite and telecast rights for exhibition of film and also directed them to disclose earnings from the infringing film.

The dispute digest is compiled by Bhasin & Co, Advocates, a corporate law firm based in New Delhi. The authors can be contacted at lbhasin@bhasinco.in or lbhasin@gmail.com. Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.