State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Katti
4680 of 2004 criminal complaint
Author: Chirag Gohli
College: South Calcutta Law College
Bench: Shri Arulraj (CMM), Egmore
Date of Judgement: 5th November, 2004
Facts of the Case: In this case, emails were sent to the victim through a false email account opened by accused in name of the victim asking for information. This resulted in annoying phone calls to the lady. So a complaint was filed by the victim in February 2004 and the accused was arrested within next few days. The accused was a well-known family friend and was interested in marrying her but she married any other person and the marriage ended in a divorce. The accused contacted her again showing interest but she refused leading to harassing her through the internet. The Charge Sheet was filed under section 67 of IT Act 2000, 469, 509 of Indian Penal Code. 18 witnesses and 34 documents and material objects were examined.
Provisions Involved: Section 67 of the Information Technology Act 2000: Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form. -Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees and in the event of second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and also with fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees.
The case is also significant for having introduced electronic evidence under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act for the first time in a Court, where a certified copy of the electronic document present on Yahoo server was produced by a private techno legal consultant, not being part of a Government forensic lab, and was accepted as the prime evidence of crime. The role of a private person as an "Expert" and the "Validity of Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act" were examined and validated in the trial.¹
During the trial, the conviction was also brought on the concept of "Forgery" of an electronic document under Indian Penal Code when a person writes his name below a message intending the recipient to consider it as a message sent by that person.
Issue Involved: Whether the offense committed by the accused has been established beyond reasonable doubt?
Defense: Defense argued that the offending emails would have been given either by the ex-husband of the complainant or the complainant herself to implicate the accused, as accused alleged to have turned down the request of the complainant to marry her. Further, the defense counsel argued that some of the documentary evidence was not sustainable under Section 65B of Indian Evidence Act. ²
Prosecution: The prosecution argued that the accused was a known family friend of the victim and was reportedly interested in marrying her. She, however, married another person but the marriage ended in divorce and the accused started contacting her again. On her reluctance to marry him the accused took up the harassment through the internet.
Judgement: In this case, the Court took expert advice of NAAVI and other evidence including Cyber Café Owners. Hence the accused was found guilty under Section 469, 509 of Indian Penal Code and 67 of IT Act. He was convicted and sentenced for rigorous imprisonment for 2 years under Section 469 IPC and to pay a fine of ₹500/- and for the offence under section 509 IPC sentenced to undergo 1 year simple imprisonment and to pay fine of ₹500/- and for the offence under Section 67 of IT Act 2000 to undergo rigorous imprisonment for 2 years and to pay a fine of ₹4000/-. All sentences were to run concurrently³.
Analysis: This case was the first cyber crime conviction case. In this case, the conviction was achieved successfully within a short span of 7 months from the filing of the FIR. In this case, there was a wonderful investigation done by the investigating agency which shows the efficient management of cyber forensic evidence which resulted in the successful cyber conviction. This case also brought out the responsibilities of an intermediary like a cyber café in maintaining a visitors register and it’s importance as evidence.
Conclusion: The conviction under the Information Technology crimes involves technology in committing the crime and also needs technology for its efficient investigation and collection of evidence which is crucial in proving the case against the accused and getting him convicted.
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