Delhi High Court Rules on WhatsApp Conversations as Evidence: Certification Required

The District Commission had refused to take on record the written statement filed by Dell on the ground that the same was filed beyond the period of limitation.
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Overview

In a landmark decision, the Delhi High Court has ruled that WhatsApp conversations cannot be accepted as evidence without the proper certification as mandated by the Evidence Act, 1872. This decision came in response to a plea by Dell International Services India Private Ltd, challenging a previous order by the Delhi State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission.

Case Background

The case began with a complaint filed against Dell in 2022, which led to a legal battle concerning the submission and acceptance of evidence. Dell had provided a screenshot of a WhatsApp conversation to demonstrate that they had not received a complete set of documents related to the complaint until January 31, 2023. However, the District Consumer Commission refused to accept this evidence, stating it was submitted beyond the permissible period.

District Commission’s Findings

The District Commission conducted a detailed examination and verified the postal receipts and the weight of the documents sent with the summons. They concluded that Dell had indeed received the complete set of documents on December 23, 2022. Consequently, Dell’s application for a seven-day delay in filing its written statement was deemed “not bona fide.”

High Court’s Decision

Justice Subramonium Prasad, presiding over the case, upheld the District Commission’s decision. He stated that WhatsApp screenshots could not be considered valid evidence in a Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India without the requisite certification as per the Evidence Act, 1872. Furthermore, he noted the absence of any reference to the WhatsApp conversations in the State Commission’s order or the writ petition itself.

Implications of the Ruling

This ruling underscores the importance of adhering to legal protocols when submitting digital communications as evidence. The court emphasized that without proper certification, digital conversations cannot be treated as legitimate evidence. This decision sets a precedent for the treatment of digital evidence in Indian courts, reinforcing the need for rigorous documentation and verification.

Conclusion

The Delhi High Court’s decision to dismiss Dell’s petition highlights the necessity of following proper legal procedures in presenting evidence. It serves as a reminder that, while digital communications are prevalent, they must be properly certified to be admissible in court. This ruling is expected to influence future cases involving digital evidence, ensuring that the legal standards set by the Evidence Act are strictly followed.


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