Service of Summons allowed through Whatsapp in Criminal Cases: Delhi Court

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A Delhi Court has allowed a woman complainant in a Domestic Violence Case to serve summons to her estranged husband, who is in Australia, via Whatsapp, text message and e-mail considering the time consumed in ordinary service. This step was initiated due to the fact that the previous two attempts to serve summons to the husband had failed.

An order to this effect was passed last month by JMetropolitan Magistrate (Mahila Court) Surabhi Sharma Vats in the respective case filed under Section 125 of the Criminal Code of Procedure.

The request made for serving summons through digital means was allowed, following submissions made by the petitioner, apprising the Court that the respondent resides in Australia. Appreciating the difficulty posed on this account, the Judge passed the following order, “In view of the submissions made and considering the fact that respondent is residing in Australia and ordinary service shall take time. Petitioner is allowed to serve the summons upon the respondent no.1 through Whatsapp, text messages and e-mail. Petitioner is directed to file an affidavit with regard to the submission/fact that E-mail Id, Mobile Number, etc. belongs to the respondent no. 1 and that the service has been effected upon him only.

Advocate Kunal Kumar and Debopriyo Pal appeared for the petitioner.

Last year, Justice Gautam Patel of the Bombay High Court set the ball rolling for the use of such unconventional methods when he allowed the service of summons through Whatsapp in a civil case. The novel measure was adopted to counter the evasive tactics of the defendant in a copyright matter. In his order, Justice Patel had noted, It cannot be that our rules and procedure are either so ancient or so rigid (or both) that without some antiquated formal service mode through a bailiff or even by beat of drum or pattaki, a party cannot be said to have been ‘properly’ served. The purpose of service is put the other party to notice and to give him a copy of the papers. The mode is surely irrelevant. We have not formally approved of email and other modes as acceptable simply because there are inherent limitation to proving service.  … Defendants who avoid and evade service by regular modes cannot be permitted to take advantage of that evasion.”

The matter is now listed on April 11. Pursuant to the order, Advocate Pal said such initiatives lets litigants make use of technology to expedite proceedings which, in several cases, are pending at the stage of service of summons. However, he also emphasized the importance on the need for ordinary methods of service of summons before opting for digital media.