The Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court, while hearing the matter of Rakesh Kumar Singla vs. Union of India, on 14th January 2021, ruled out that WhatsApp text messages produced in court as evidence shall have no evidentiary value unless they are duly certified under Section 65B (4) of the Indian Evidence Act 1972 (hereinafter referred to as “Evidence Act”), however they may still be recognized and relied upon by investigation agencies for the purpose of their investigation.
Section 65B (4) of the Evidence Act states that any information contained in an electronic record shall be deemed to be a document, provided it satisfies all the conditions mentioned in the said Section.
The instant Petition had been filed for seeking grant of bail to the Petitioner in the case bearing Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1987. The Petitioner submitted that he had been inculpated solely on the basis of statement made by the co-accused and him, which were insufficient to be relied upon. The Counsel appearing on behalf of the Narcotics Bureau (hereinafter referred to as ‘NCB’) submitted that around 57,000 tablets of tramadol hydrochloride (100 mg) were confiscated from petitioner, which amounted to commercial quantity. It was also argued by the NCB Counsel that, “there are screen shots of Whatsapp messages available with the NCB, which would connect the petitioner with the said contraband, as there is a message available showing transfer of an amount by the petitioner into the account of husband of Paramjit Kaur (co-accused). It is also argued that there are other persons involved in the sale and purchase of contraband as would be evident from the Whatsapp messages.”
The learned counsel for the NCB majorly placed reliance on Whatsapp messages by which the petitioner could be implicated. However, on the asking of this Court, whether a certificate under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act is available at the present moment to authenticate the said messages, the answer was in negative. Here, the High Court relied upon Arjun Panditrao Khotkar vs. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal and others (2020) 7 SCC 1, in which the Supreme Court held, “certificate Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act is required when reliance is being placed upon electronic record.” Therefore, the High Court held that said messages would be of no evidentiary value as on date.
Based on the aforementioned, the Court allowed the bail plea while opining that, “no useful purpose would be served in keeping the petitioner behind bars”.