In response to a recent case filed by WhatsApp against India’s new IT rules, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has said that it respects the right to privacy and has no intention to violate it by asking WhatsApp to disclose the origin of a particular message.

MeitY’s statement comes hours after WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in Delhi High Court challenging the government’s new digital rules on May 25, 2021. According to Whatsapp, requiring messaging apps to trace chats is the equivalent of asking them to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people’s right to privacy.

The new IT rules came into effect on May 26, 2021. The guidelines require significant social media intermediaries with over five million users to enable identification of the originator of any piece of information when asked by the government.

To this end, MeitY said that none of the measures proposed by India will impact the normal functioning of WhatsApp in any manner whatsoever and for the common users, there will be no impact. The centre further claimed that the provision meets the test of proportionality, and will only be used as a last resort measure. Commenting specifically on WhatsApp’s charge, the ministry said that at one end, WhatsApp seeks to mandate a privacy policy wherein it will share data of all its user with its parent company, Facebook. On other hand, WhatsApp makes every effort to refuse enactment of intermediary guidelines necessary to uphold law and order and curb fake news. As a significant social media intermediary, WhatsApp seeks safe harbour protection as per provisions of the IT Act. However, in a befuddling act, they seek to avoid responsibility and refuse to enact the very steps which permit them a safe harbour provision, MeitY added.