P&H HC | Whatsapp messages do not have any evidentiary value in the absence of certificate under S. 65B of Evidence Act; HC states

Punjab and Haryana High Court: In an interesting case regarding regular bail, Jaishree Thakur, J., held that WhatsApp messages do not have any evidentiary value in the absence of certificate under Section 65B of Evidence Act, 1872.

On receipt of secret information that two consignments contained contraband, the Narcotics Bureau, Headquarters, Chandigarh arrived at the Regional Office of DTDC Courier Agency and called one Paramjit Kaur (consignor of the parcels), who confirmed that she had booked the parcels herself, on being asked by the petitioner to do so. The consignments contained contraband of Tramadol Hydrochloride 100 mg (Trade Name Clovidol-100 SR), 57,000 tablets which were of commercial quantity. Counsel for the petitioner, R.S. Rai submitted that Narcotics Bureau was relying upon the statement given by a co-accused implicating the petitioner. It was contended that the said disclosure statement could not be relied upon nor can any statement made by him in the judicial custody be relied upon as incriminating evidence against him. Reliance was placed by the petitioner on Tofan Singh v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2013) 16 SCC 31, wherein the Supreme Court dealt with the question,

Whether an officer “empowered under Section 42 of the NDPS Act” and/or “the officer empowered under Section 53 of the NDPS Act” are “Police Officers” and therefore, statements recorded by such officers would be hit by Section 25 of the Evidence Act? The supreme Court, while answering the abovementioned question had held, “a confessional statement made before an officer designated under Section 42 or Section 53 can be the basis to convict a person under the NDPS Act, without any non obstante clause doing away with Section 25 of the Evidence Act, and without any safeguards, would be a direct infringement of the constitutional guarantees contained in Articles 14, 20 (3) and 21 of the Constitution of India.’’

 The respondent submitted that there were screen shots of Whatsapp messages available with it, which would connect the petitioner with the said contraband, as there was a message available showing transfer of an amount by the petitioner into the account of Harjinder Singh, husband of Paramjit Kaur.

The Court stated that complicity of the petitioner would have to be determined by the quality of evidence led during trial. The Narcotics Bureau was relying not only upon the statement given by a co-accused implicating the petitioner but also upon some screenshots of whatsapp messages. It was observed that ratio, as laid down in Tofan Singh’s case, would come to the aid of the petitioner to allow him the benefit of regular bail. The Court, while relying on Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. Kailash Kushanrao Gorantyal, (2020) 7 SCC 1, held, a certificate Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act is required when reliance is being placed upon electronic record. Therefore, the said message would be of no evidentiary value as on date.”  Hence, the petitioner was granted bail on execution of adequate personal/surety bond of an amount of Rs.10 Lakhs. [Rakesh Kumar Singla v. Union of India, CRM-M No.23220 of 2020 (O&M), decided on 14-01-2021]

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