Sebi Signals a New Trend: Summons and Notices to Come Via WhatsApp, Telegram

The securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) will now send show cause notices, summons and orders to securities law offenders via instant messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signals, a move that will make the processes speedier and efficient.

This will be in addition to the normal mode of communication including electronic mail, registered post, courier and fax.

“The law and regulation concerning the securities market and the regulatory framework continues to see dynamic changes from time to time,” said Zerick Dastur, advocates and solicitors. “In an effort to smoothen the system of adjudication and issuance of timely processes, the manner of service of notices and order has also undergone changes to meet with the needs of time.”

On July 11, 2020, the Supreme Court agreed in principal that serving notices and summons, integral to the judicial processes, through instant messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram in addition to emails would be legally valid.

A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde, and Justices R S Reddy and A S Bopanna agreed with the suggestions of attorney general K K Venugopal and solicitor general Tushar Mehta that notices through email would constitute a valid delivery mechanism.

It said that this innovation was needed as physical lockdown periods has been difficult.

“This practice that has been initiated by the Supreme Court is now being followed not only by the Delhi High Court but also by district courts and also financial authorities. Recently, a financial authority in Chandigarh, Mr. Ashok Khemka, has also issued a notice a respondent residing in Nepal through WhatsApp,” said Supreme Court advocate Pratap Venugopal.

Lawyers said the mandate of serving documents by multiple means will also act as a check against any possible attempt on the part of recipients to avoid receiving notices.

“Rights from physical delivery to speed post or courier service to email or fax to WhatsApp (now), the modes of serving judicial documents have continually evolved over time. In this backdrop, this initiative of the Supreme Court is a breath of fresh air and a major leap in the step-by-step evolution of the process service in India,” Venugopal said.

The ‘blue-tick’ feature of WhatsApp is used by the court to determine whether the recipient has seen the service of the document.

“Sebi has quickly utilized the judgment and recommended to the ministry of finance to legislate it for Sebi orders and notices even in non-lock-down situations,” said Sumit Agarwal, managing partner, Rag street Law Advisors & former Sebi Officer.

“Indian securities market is functions in a near 100% demat environment where mobile numbers and email ids are available in databases of depositories and other intermediaries through KYCs (know your client), effecting service by instant messaging service and email will reduce delayers and increase efficiency,” Agrawal said. S-ET

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