A senior executive of a private company in Mumbai has been convicted for what is reported to be an offence of “Cyber Stalking” according to the media reports. (See this TOI report: First Cyber Case Conviction in Maharashtra). It is hailed as the first conviction case of cyber crime in the State since the cyber laws came into existence in 2000.
The case was prompted by a complaint from a lady stating that she was receiving e-mails from an unknown person indicating that the sender was following her physical world movements and that some of the messages contained some obscene pictures. Police traced the sender through IP address resolution and now he has been convicted with imprisonment of 4 months. It appears that there was also forensic investigation of two hard disks and mobile call details used as additional evidences.
While we appreciate the publicity that a Cyber Crime Conviction is getting, for academic purpose we may discuss if it was indeed a Cyber Crime or a Physical crime that was committed in this case.
At this point we are awaiting particulars whether the conviction was under ITA 2000/8 or IPC. Actually this was a fit case for Section 66A which Supreme Court recently scrapped. The offence was clearly made out clearly under that section.
Just because the evidence is in electronic form, the crime itself does not become a “Cyber Crime”. In this case, annoyance was caused and fear was induced in the victim. But the fear was some body was following in the physical world. The threat was in physical space. The primary crime therefore appears to be in the physical space. Cyber space has been used for communication. But the moot question is whether the complainant felt harassed because she received the email? or because she realized from the email that she was being followed in the physical space when she went to a movie or to the temple? If it was an apprehension that she was physically followed and could be physically abused, it should be treated as a physical space crime.
We need to check if there was a threat through email or if there was obscenity in the content… then there is a case under ITA 200/8. But under the grand verdict of the learned Supreme Court judges, causing annoyance through email can still be within the definition of “Free Speech” !.
So to call this case as a “First Cyber Crime Conviction in Maharashtra” is perhaps not entirely correct.
However,we congratulate the Police for having presented the digital evidence in a manner that the Court accepted it and went for conviction.
We shall provide more information in these columns once the details are available.