In an interesting award from the Adjudicator of Maharashtra, an employer (Rud India Chains Private Limited) who fought the complaint of an employee (Amit Patwardhan) for privacy violation with the counter charge of employee sharing confidential company data with a rival company, for financial benefit has been caught in his own web and faces the charge of wrongfully hacking into the information of the employee.
The employer has produced a bank statement of the employee as evidence that he had received some money from a rival company. However they have failed to convince the adjudicator about the legality of the means by which they have obtained the information since the Bank has denied having officially provided the data. This has lead to the inference that the employer must have obtained the information through “unauthorized access”. The Award has made a mention of recognizing the offence under Section 43(b) read with Section 66.
The Adjudicator has however not awarded any compensation or costs to anybody. There is a good logic here because it appears that the Adjudicator was otherwise convinced that the employee had made money from the rivals of the company and had not therefore come with “Clean Hands”. He has therefore considered that he should not be given any benefit as a compensation against privacy violation. At the same time the employer also cannot benefit from an illegal activity though it is to prove another activity which may be unethical and against an employment contract. So the Adjudicator has felt that he also does not deserve any benefit from law.
The judgement appears to be in accordance with the principle of natural justice and deserves to be commended.
The incident also indicates the common mistake that some litigants commit without knowing the legal implications of their action. The ill advised litigants hire the services of half baked security practitioners who help them use key loggers to hack into employee e-mails or otherwise illegally extract information to be used in a legal battle. The end result is that for sustaining a civil damage claim they expose themselves to a criminal liability.
For example now that a judicial entity such as the Adjudicator has categorically given a view that “Section 66 Offence has occurred”, the police will not have any option but to take cognizance of the offence and proceed against the employer for criminal prosecution. On the other hand it will be difficult for them to get civil compensation from any other Court. It is therefore a situation where the employer is doomed. Probably the blame for this should be taken by the person who advised the employer to take this route of “hacking for evidence.”. Such an activity is only possible on specific permission of a Court of law or under special powers that the Police may exercise under emergencies.