The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response from the Centre, Facebook messenger and WhatsApp on a plea alleging that the two instant messaging platforms were illegally providing voice over internet services which is only permitted only under a telecom licence. Justice Navin Chawla issued the notice to the Finance Ministry, Department of Telecommunications, Facebook and WhatsApp, and sought their stand on the petition by an internet service provider (ISP) which also alleged that the unregulated functioning of the two platforms was "a threat to national security" and also causes a loss to the exchequer.
Meanwhile, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday that the ‘Internet has emerged as potent tool to cause unimaginable damage to democratic polity’. The Centre also said that new rules will be formulated in three months for ‘effective regulations’.
In the Delhi High Court, the ISP provider World Phone Internet Services Pvt Ltd said that, "The illegal functioning of Facebook messenger and WhatsApp should not be permitted. Facebook and WhatsApp are providing internet telephony without a licence."
The petitioner company, represented by advocate Sanjoy Ghose, has contended that licensed telecom service providers (TSPs) and ISPs providing internet telephony are subject to many licensing regulations and security measures which are to be strictly followed.
World Phone has said under the licence conditions, if a security breach occurs due to any "inadvertent inadequacy" in precautions taken by it or due to deliberate fault on the part of the licensee, then a penalty of Rs 50 crore per breach is payable.
Apart from that criminal proceedings may also be initiated, it said. The petition also states that ISPs and TSPs, at present, have to pay a licence fee which is eight per cent of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) earned from internet telephony and from second year of effective date of respective authorisation, it would be a minimum of 10 per cent of the entry fee of the respective authorised service and service area.
A GST of 18 per cent is also required to be paid, the company has said. However, Facebook messenger and Whatsapp are not subject to any of the licence regulations, do not have to pay any tariffs nor penalties for violation and as a result, licensed ISPs and TSPs, like the petitioner, have to compete with them and suffer huge losses, the plea said.
It has sought directions to the government to make the licence regulations applicable on the two platforms as well as ensure they comply with it. The company has also sought that internet telephony services offered by Facebook messenger and WhatsApp be stopped till they comply with the licence requirements.