The Delhi High Court has instructed the police to seize mobile phones belonging to members of two WhatsApp groups allegedly used to coordinate the January 5 mob attack on JNU students and faculty. The cops have been directed to summon individuals who are part of either one or both groups and confiscate their phones as part of the investigation into the horrific attack that left 34 people injured. The court has also asked Google and WhatsApp to act as per the law and preserve and provide all data - messages, photos, etc. - sought by the police as part of their investigation into the attack.
Justice Brijesh Sethi of the Delhi High Court also told Dr Pramod Kumar, the JNU Registrar, to cooperate and provide the cops with all information requested, after it was told yesterday that the university had yet to respond to police notices.
On Monday the court issued notices to WhatsApp, Google, Facebook and Apple Inc. after three JNU professors sought preservation of relevant data and information relating to the violence. It also asked for responses from the cops and the government.
WhatsApp told the court today that it could not access messages because of the encryption system.
"We don't have access to the chat content. It works on end-to-end encryption and the only way to access and preserve it is by preserving the phone of those persons. No technology to break through," the messaging platform's lawyer was quoted by news agency IANS.
In their plea the three professors - Ameet Parameswaran, Shukla Sawant and Atul Sood - had asked for data from two groups 'Unity against Left' and 'Friends of RSS', both of which authorities believe is linked to the mob attack.
The plea also assumed importance after it emerged that CCTV footage - from 135 cameras installed across the 1,000-acre campus - was not immediately available because of a damaged computer server at the university.
Three days ago the police said they had identified around 37 members of the 60-member 'Unity against Left' group; 10 of those were not current JNU students, the cops, who had earlier admitted to scouring social media posts for evidence, said.
Delhi Police, who have come under fire for their conduct during the attack - students of the prestigious university in Delhi have alleged the cops "did nothing" to stop it - have yet to arrest anyone since the violence on January 5.
On Monday they questioned JNU students union leader Aishe Ghosh, who was badly wounded in the attack and sexually harassed in the attack, over allegations of vandalism of the computer server room in the hours preceding the mob violence.
Ms Ghosh was named among nine suspects the cops said had carried out the violence.
Left-backed student groups and the BJP-linked ABVP, both of whom are under investigation by Delhi Police, have accused each other of the violence.
With input from IANS