There can be no question that no one can be allowed to defy the law, whether delusional administrators put in charge of small islands or giant firms that operate across the world.
There is no need to climb the nationalist high horse snorting anger at sovereignty defied, over WhatsApp’s challenge of the Intermediary Guidelines in the Delhi High Court. This challenge is likely to provide a number of benefits, ranging from clarity on the constitutionality of the guidelines and establishing India as a country where foreign companies can seek legal redress to focusing minds on not just completing the long-pending legislation to protect privacy but also to build in provisions on regulating the State’s right to breach citizen privacy.
There can be no question that no one can be allowed to defy the law, whether delusional administrators put in charge of small islands, who behave as if they were monarchs with arbitrary powers, or giant companies that operate across the world. However, no company has said it would defy the law. That is not their business model. They are committed to following the law of the land, wherever they operate. However, it is part of their business model to seem to champion freedom of expression, privacy and fairness. It is important for them to be seen defending these commitments, instead of rushing to crawl when asked to bend. Putting up a legal fight and acting on the outcome is a good way to go about both complying with domestic law in India and acting true to their claims to principles. Unless the government has lost confidence in India’s own judicial process, there is little to cavil, except to point out that the legal option could have been explored long before the final deadline.
While social media companies should comply with government directives, the government has the duty to explain the rationale for its directives to the people of India, something absent in the guidelines.