WhatsApp Evidence in Court
Introduction : In today’s digital era, WhatsApp chats have become a prevalent form of communication, even in legal matters. However, presenting WhatsApp chats as evidence in court can be challenging due to the potential for manipulation and denial. To overcome these obstacles, it is essential to comprehend the rules governing digital evidence. This blog post aims to explore the issue and provide a solution based on relevant legal judgments.
I. The Predicament of Admitting WhatsApp Chats WhatsApp chats, often presented as screenshots, can be subject to tampering, undermining their credibility as evidence. Moreover, the opposing party may deny the existence of any communication, creating further complications. In such cases, understanding the rules surrounding digital evidence becomes crucial.
II. Admissibility of Digital Evidence and Safeguards Digital evidence, including WhatsApp chats, is generally admissible in court proceedings but is treated as secondary evidence. Specific safeguards exist to establish the authenticity of such evidence. However, certain situations necessitate adherence to additional guidelines, as highlighted in the Supreme Court judgment.
III. Arjun Panditrao Khotkar vs. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal and Ors.: In this landmark Supreme Court judgment dated 14th July 2020, the admissibility of electronic records, including WhatsApp chats, was clarified. The judgment emphasizes that if the original device on which the information was stored is owned and operated by the witness, it can be produced as evidence without the need for a certificate under Section 65B(4) of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
IV. The Role of Section 65B(4) and Certification However, in cases where the device is part of a computer system or network that cannot be physically brought to the court, Section 65B(4) comes into play. This section requires the person presenting the evidence to comply with the certificate requirements outlined in the law. The 65B certificate confirms that the information in the electronic record was recorded in the presence of the person providing the certificate and that they have full control over the device.
V. Ensuring the Admissibility of WhatsApp ChatsTo ensure the admissibility of WhatsApp chats in court, individuals must follow the guidelines set forth in the Arjun Panditrao Khotkar case. Providing a 65B certificate along with the electronic record helps establish the authenticity of the WhatsApp chats. This certification process makes the evidence reliable and credible in the eyes of the court.
VI. Best Practices for Presenting WhatsApp Chats Apart from obtaining the necessary certification, there are additional best practices to enhance the credibility of WhatsApp chats as evidence. These include capturing original timestamps, ensuring the integrity of screenshots, and maintaining a chain of custody for the electronic records.
Conclusion Presenting WhatsApp chats as evidence in a court of law can be a daunting task due to the risk of manipulation and denial. However, by understanding the rules of digital evidence and referring to the Arjun Panditrao Khotkar judgment, individuals can ensure the admissibility of WhatsApp chats as valid evidence. Obtaining a 65B certificate and following best practices for preserving electronic records will strengthen the credibility of WhatsApp chats, enhancing their value in legal proceedings. As technology continues to evolve, a well-informed approach to presenting digital evidence is essential for a fair and just legal system.