Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, June 9
Investigating a drugs case, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has made one thing clear: End-to-end encrypted WhatsApp chats can be dug into and analysed by government agencies with the help of forensic specialists.
As a petition filed by an 18-year-old for regular bail in a drugs case came up for hearing before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the NCB submitted that the entire WhatsApp chat was end-to-end encrypted. As such, it could not be opened by the NCB officers. They were, therefore, constrained to send it to forensic specialists for “opening and analysis”.
The prosecution’s case was that the petitioner and his co-accused-father were found in possession of 520 grams of heroin without permit or licence. They were arrested on February 14, 2020.
Justice Sudip Ahluwalia’s Bench was told the complacency/involvement of the accused in trafficking was established from his talks over phone and WhatsApp communications with a Nigerian handler/supplier of contraband.
Screenshots from the petitioner’s phone regarding his alleged interaction on WhatsApp with the supplier were filed along with the NCB reply. The Bench was told there was an exchange of text messages and audio and video chats from February 8 to 14, 2020.
The petitioner’s counsel submitted that the recordings of the alleged WhatsApp conversations between the petitioner/ holder of the phone at the relevant time and the contraband supplier had not been made available to show the petitioner’s involvement.
The NCB counsel submitted: “Once the relevant report comes, it will be made available.” He added the WhatsApp conversations were sent for forensic analysis with the intent to submit its report at an appropriate stage. Finding no justification to release the petitioner on bail at the current stage, Justice Ahluwalia dismissed the petition.
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