CHENNAI: Taking a serious view of a plea alleging that the Puducherry BJP unit has accessed the personal records of citizens such as WhatsApp numbers and is sending campaign messages, the Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Election Commission to file a detailed report within two days. The court also observed it was a grave charge and the commission cannot pass the buck to the cyber cell authorities to investigate.
Anand, president of the Puducherry unit of the Democratic Youth Foundation of India (DYFI), alleged in his petition that local BJP candidates had obtained the cell phone numbers from the Unique Identification Authority of India and were creating booth-level WhatsApp groups in their respective constituencies for targeted campaigning.
Multiple WhatsApp groups have been formed in the Union Territory using the same phone number specifically targeting voters in each booth and the respective constituencies through messages, stated the petitioner. The petitioner also said he tried reaching the administrator of the group and to his shock he came to know there are 952 WhatsApp groups with all the voters details created by the BJP Puducherry unit.
The petitioner also alleged that people have been receiving calls from the BJP with the party having access to personal details such as names, election booths and constituencies where each will be casting their vote.
The petitioner pleaded with the court to constitute a special investigation team to probe the issue and restrain the BJP candidates from canvassing in this way.
The counsel for the petitioner MN Sumathy, during the hearing, sought an interim stay from the court to direct the party members to refrain from sending such messages. The counsel also said that several residents in the locality where she stays have been receiving such messages.
The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy observed that the allegations made by the petitioner are grave since it relates to accessing personal records.
During the hearing, the counsel for the Election Commission of India said that the complaint received from the DYFI in this connection has been forwarded to the Cyber Crime Cell for inquiry.
However, the court recording the submissions observed, "When it comes to the ruling party, the ECI cannot pass the buck to the cybercrime cell when it asserts primacy in all other matters."
The bench directed the ECI to file a detailed report by Friday.