Ker HC | Service of summons through Whatsapp; Is it valid in law? HC clarifies

Kerala High Court: V.G. Arun, J., addressed an interesting question regarding the validity of summons served through Whatsapp. The Bench stated, No doubt, the evolutionary changes in the field of communication calls for a more pragmatic approach regarding the mode and manner of service of summons, the statutory provisions do not provide for service of summons through WhatsApp.

The petitioner was aggrieved by the non-bailable warrant issued against the petitioner for non-appearance before the Court. The specific case put forth by the petitioner was that the summons, alleged to had been sent through WhatsApp to his mobile phone, had never reached him, as he had not downloaded the WhatsApp application on his phone.

Section 62 of CrPC, dealing with the mode of service of summons, prescribe the following:
“62. Summons how served.

(1) Every summons shall be served by a police officer, or subject to such rules as the State government may make in this behalf, by an officer of the Court issuing it or other public servant.
(2) The summons shall, if practicable, be served personally on the person summoned, by delivering or tendering to him one of the duplicates of the summons. (3) Every person on whom a summons is so served shall, if so required by the serving officer, sign a receipt therefor on the back of the other duplicate.”

Going by Section 65 of CrPC, if service could not be effected as provided under Section 2, the serving officer shall affix one of the duplicates of the summons to the conspicuous part of the house or homestead in which the person summoned ordinarily resides.

The Bench stated, above provisions do not provide for service of summons through WhatsApp. No doubt, the revolutionary changes in the field of communication calls for a more pragmatic approach regarding the mode and manner of service of summons. In this regard, the insertion of Section 144 has been made in the Negotiable Instruments Act for the purpose of overcoming the delay in serving summons, which provide for service of summons by speed post or by approved courier service.

 In Indian Banks Assn. v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 590, the Supreme Court had alerted the Magistrates about the need to adopt a pragmatic and realistic approach while issuing process and had directed to issue summons by post as well as by email.

“In the case at hand, the summon was stated to had been issued through WhatsApp, which is not an accepted mode of service. As such, the court should not have issued non-bailable warrant against the petitioner on the assumption that he had failed to appear after receiving the summons.”

In view of the above, the petitioner was permitted to move an application for bail and the magistrate was directed to consider his application deeming the petitioner to have appeared on summons. The non-bailable warrant issued against the petitioner was directed to be kept in abeyance for a period of four weeks.[Anoop Jacob v. State of Kerala, Crl.MC.No.1658 of 2021, decided on 09-04-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance before the Court by:

For the Petitioner: Adv. Manoj P. Kunjachan

For the Respondent: PP T. R. Renjith

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