Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the police to summon the witnesses and seize mobile phones of the members of two WhatsApp groups that are believed to be linked to the mob attack on JNU students and teachers on January 5.
The court has ordered the seizure of mobile phones of the members of the two WhatsApp groups – ‘Friends of RSS’ and ‘Unity against Left’.
The court has also asked Google and WhatsApp to preserve the data based on basic subscriber information including email ids, as per their policy, while hearing a petition of three JNU professors seeking to preserve CCTV footage, WhatsApp conversations and other evidence related to January 5 violence.
This came after the Delhi Police said they have written to WhatsApp seeking details of the two groups and are waiting for a response.
WhatsApp had told the court it did not have access to the messages because its contentious end-to-end encryption system meant the messages and data could only be accessed through the mobile phone that sent the information or the ones that received it.
Delhi High Court had on Monday issued notice to Apple, WhatsApp and Google after three JNU professors in a petition sought preservation of CCTV footage and group conversations.
Justice Brijesh Sethi of the Delhi High Court also told Dr Pramod Kumar, the JNU Registrar, to cooperate and provide the cops with all information requested after it was told yesterday that the university had yet to respond to police notices.
Appearing for the Delhi Police, lawyer Rahul Mehra had told the court on Monday that they have already sought CCTV footage of January 5 violence but no response was received from the University.
The plea seeking saving of WhatsApp data was filed by Ameet Parameswaran, professor at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Atul Sood, professor at Centre for Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, and Shukla Vinayak Sawant, a Professor at School of Arts and Aesthetics. All of them were injured in the violence, according to a report in Hindustan Times.
The plea said the attacks were “premeditated” and “coordinated”, planning for which had been done on various WhatsApp groups.
Highly disturbing videos and screenshots emerged across media and social media, in particular on WhatsApp, the petition further stated.
“It is submitted that several persons appear to have used the WhatsApp platform to create different WhatsApp groups with the purpose of inciting hate and violence against the teachers, staff, and students of JNU…,” the petition read.
Delhi Police’s Special Investigating Team (SIT) on Saturday had claimed to have identified 37 of the 60 individuals of a WhatsApp group called ‘Unity Against Left’, which is believed to be linked to the mob attack on JNU students and teachers on January 5.
According to the police, the group was created against the Left parties on January 5, the day when violence broke out in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) premises as several masked individuals, both male and female, thrashed students, including girls, and teachers inside the campus with wooden and metal rods, injuring at least 34 people.