Messaging application WhatsApp on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that the company would leave India if it was compelled to break encryption of messages and calls under the 2021 Information Technology Rules, reported the Hindustan Times.

The High Court was hearing a plea by WhatsApp and its parent company Meta challenging a provision of the Information Technology Rules for social media companies, requiring them to identify the first originator of information.

The plea challenges Rule 4(2) of the 2021 Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules which requires significant social media companies to enable the “identification of the first originator of the information”.

On Thursday, WhatsApp told the court that the rules violate the fundamental rights of the users under Articles 14 (equality before law), 19 (freedom of speech) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

“As a platform, we are saying, if we are told to break encryption, then WhatsApp goes,” the messaging application’s counsel told the High Court.

It also said that no such rule exists anywhere else in the world.

“People use WhatsApp only because of its encryption,” WhatsApp told the court, reported The Indian Express. “Now by implementing this rule, we will have to break the encryption. Otherwise, it won’t be possible to trace the originator. Billions and billions of messages may have to be stored for ‘n’ number of years, because there is no limit here.”

According to the rule brought in by the Centre, social media companies will be asked to identify the first originator of information for serious offences through a court order or any competent authority, under the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for interception, monitoring and decryption of information) Rules, 2009.

“There are two rights: one is privacy and at the same time, the government has a right to know for instance, if a terrorist is sending a message, he has to be caught,” WhatsApp told the court, reported The Indian Express. “We are caught in between. Whether I should break my platform for one of the instances or for billions of instances. Is it proportionate? That has to be considered.”

The court has listed the matter on August 14.

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