NCB says WhatsApp chats can be anaylsed


The revelation came recently during the hearing of a narcotic-related case at the Punjab and Haryana High Court

WhatsApp chats, which are end-to-end encrypted can be analysed by government organisations. The revelation came recently during the hearing of a narcotic-related case at the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Also read: All you need to know about WhatsApp encryption

In a petition filed in the High Court by an 18-year-old under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, seeking regular bail in a case under Narcotic Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS), the investigating agency — Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) had stated in its reply that since the entire WhatsApp chat is end-to-end encrypted, so it could not be opened by the NCB officers themselves, who were, therefore, constrained to send it to the forensic specialists for its ‘opening and analysis’, and once the relevant report comes, it would also be made available.

The case of the prosecution (NCB, Chandigarh) was that the petitioner and his father, a co-accused in the case, were found in possession of 520 grams of heroin without any permit or license while they were travelling in a car. They were arrested on February 14, 2020.

Also read: WhatsApp, India? How an app insinuated itself into our lives

The NCB submitted in the Court that petitioner’s complacency/involvement in trafficking was established from his talks with a Nigerian handler-supplier of the contraband over phone and WhatsApp communications. Photographs of the screenshots from the mobile phone of the petitioner regarding his interaction on WhatsApp with the supplier of Nigerian origin were submitted by the NCB.

The petitioner’s advocate submitted that recordings of the alleged WhatsApp conversations between the petitioner — holder of the mobile phone at the relevant time. and the contraband supplier of Nigerian nationality had not been revealed or made available to show the petitioner’s involvement.

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The NCB counsel stated the WhatsApp conversation was sent for analysis on April 4, 2021, as it was not considered necessary earlier in view of the petitoner’s confessional statement. The counsel added that the NCB was subsequently constrained to send the WhatsApp conversations for forensic analysis with the intent to submit its report at an appropriate stage during trial, which procedure itself is not contrary to law.

Justice Sudip Ahluwalia, who was hearing the matter on May 7 in his order stated the Court finds no justification to release the petitioner on bail at this stage. The petition is, therefore, dismissed.

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