Without Certificate, WhatsApp Message Has No Evidentiary Value Under Section 65 B (4) Indian Evidence Act

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CASE: Rakesh Kumar Singla v. Union Of India 

CORAM: Hon’ble Justice Jaishree Thakur

The Punjab and Haryana HC noted that unless they are certified according to Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, WhatsApp messages would have no evidentiary value.

This statement was made by a single bench of Justice Jaishree Thakur while determining a bail plea in a case under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS Act).

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) had relied on some alleged WhatsApp chats from the accused to challenge the bail application. The NCB reported that the petitioner was related to the contraband through screenshots of WhatsApp messages.

The Court, however, asked that whether such messages are accompanied by a certificate under Section 65B.

By getting a reply that no such certificate is there, the bench observed:

“The recent judgment rendered by the Supreme Court in the matter of Arjun Panditrao Khotkar v. KailashKushanrao Gorantyal and others (2020) 7 SCC 1 has held that 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”.

However, after complying with Section 65B, the bench granted the NCB the liberty to rely on the WhatsApp messages.

The bench noted while granting bail to the accused, “Needless to say, following due compliance with the provisions of Section 65-B of the Indian Evidence Act, the Narcotics Bureau will always be liberty to rely on Whatsapp messages.”

The NCB relied on some custodial statements made by the accused under Section 67 of the NDPS Act to argue that there was a prima facie offence. However, in the light of the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Tofan Singh v. Union of India, which held that such statements amount to custodial confessions, the bench decided not to rely on Section 67 statements, making them inadmissible in evidence.