HC dismisses plea to set aside order blocking messaging app in J&K over threat to national security

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New Delhi, Jul 8 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has refused to set aside the Central government’s order blocking open-source messaging application ‘Briar’ in Jammu and Kashmir as it is suspected to be used by terrorists and could be a potential threat to national security.

The high court observed that in the matters of national security, principles of natural justice can be given a go-by.

“The interim order has been reviewed by the committee constituted under Section 7 of the Blocking Rules and as stated earlier, the committee consists of top officials of the Government of India. The blocking orders have been passed for 14 applications/ softwares, including the software/ application of the petitioner herein as it was being used by the terrorists and their supporters to disturb the security and sovereignty of the country.

“The application of the petitioner has been blocked only in Jammu and Kashmir and the same can be used in all other parts of the country. In view of the above, this court is not inclined to entertain the present writ petition. Accordingly, the writ petition is dismissed,” Justice Subramonium Prasad said.

Sublime Software Ltd, the petitioner, sought direction to the Centre to produce and publish the order passed by it under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, blocking its open-source messaging application ‘Briar’ and also prayed for setting aside that order.

It was stated that Briar operates on a technology in which a person can directly send a message to another person even when there is no internet connectivity.

It added that the technology is crucial in times of emergency, natural calamities and catastrophic disasters in providing emergency healthcare and disaster management as it enables smooth communication between persons and authorities during times of distress.

On the other hand, the Centre’s counsel submitted that the software, which can work even when there is no internet connection, is suspected to be used by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir.

The application can be misused and can definitely be a potential threat to the national security, sovereignty and integrity of India, the Centre’s counsel said.

The high court in its order noted that rule 16 of the Blocking Rules provides that strict confidentiality shall be maintained regarding all the requests and complaints received and actions taken thereof.

“This court can take judicial notice of the fact that decisions taken at the highest level and for the benefit of the security and sovereignty of the country can be kept confidential,” it said. PTI SKV AS AS