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Can’t evade legal notice now! New method approved by High Court

For all those who are trying to evade legal notices, the officials have found the perfect method.

The Bombay High Court recently said that serving of a notice in an execution application sent as a PDF file through WhatsApp that further shows that the respondent has received it and opened it on his message is “sufficient for the purpose of service of the notice.”

Advocate Murlidhar Kale, appearing for SBI Cards & Payments Services Pvt Ltd, told the court that Rohidas Jadhav, a customer with the bank, had been evading service of notice in an execution application. He was served by an authorised officer, Fatema Kalyanwala, who sent a PDF and message to his mobile number on WhatsApp.

Jadhav had run up credit card dues of Rs 85,000 in 2010. In 2011, following arbitration proceedings, he was ordered to pay back the amount along with 8 per cent interest. When he failed to make the payment, the bank filed an execution application in 2015 to enforce the award. The amount at the time stood at Rs 1.17 lakh. Over the past two years, the bank had been trying to serve the notice about the litigation on Jadhav but without success, as he kept shifting his rental accommodation.

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Kale told the court that Jadhav resides at Nallasopara in a place which he seems to have taken on rent. Kale told the court that they had to approach the court with the execution application after Jadhav refused to take their calls or meet their officers. Kale told the media, “On the previous hearing, we sought permission from the court to serve notice through WhatsApp, stating that he was very much available on his phone. The court permitted us to do so, provided we submit an affidavit stating the execution of notice.”

Justice Gautam S Patel, in his order, said, “For the purpose of service of notice under Order XXI, Rule 22, I will accept this. I do so because the icon indicators clearly show that not only was the message and its attachment delivered to the Respondent’s (Jadhav) number but that both were opened.”

Justice Patel further states, “…the present notice is made absolute.” A printout of the WhatsApp message is taken on record for identification and the second printout is of the WhatsApp contact number of Jadhav which shows his contact number for identification, the court noted.

Rules state that a notice is served in person or through registered post. Following the enactment of the Information Technology Act, which recognises electronic communication as evidence, courts have allowed parties in a litigation to serve notice through email, in addition to traditional methods. Earlier this year, a Delhi metropolitan magistrate had allowed a woman to serve a summons in a domestic violence case on her estranged husband in Australia via WhatsApp. The court had said that the “double tick” on WhatsApp showed that the summons has been delivered.

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