New Delhi, March 1: The Supreme Court today sought the government’s response to a PIL, filed by a 64-year-old Pune industrialist who claims prosecution over a Facebook slur in a case of mistaken identity, to ensure the innocent aren’t harassed.
Dilipkumar Tulsidas Shah was picked up by Pune police after a complaint by a lady who alleged her estranged husband had posted obscene photos and material while the pair sought divorce.
Shah has been charged despite Facebook’s subsequent clarification that another user had uploaded the content and that Shah had no connection with either the lady or her complaint.
Krishan Kumar and Abhya Nevagi, the lawyers for Shah who is still fighting the case, said he was traumatised when technologically challenged cyber cell officers wrongly arrested him in April 2011 after initially obtaining erroneous details from Facebook and the local Internet operator.
In other words, the real offenders got away because of the officers’ lack of technical knowledge, Kumar and Nevagi said.
Shah, who is on bail, highlighted the perils in his petition.
“Cyber crime by its very nature can be perpetrated in practically any location in the world. A cyber criminal can sit in one place and commit a crime the effect of which is felt elsewhere, or can malign the name or identity of another person located elsewhere, or even create the false impression that someone else has committed the crime.”
The bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justices Anil Dave and Vikramjit Sen issued notices to the Centre and the Maharashtra government. They tagged the plea with another PIL, filed by a student, to prevent misuse of the IT Act’s provisions.
“It is necessary that the investigating machinery take care, particularly in the light of the highly stringent provisions of the IT Act. The investigations are also dependent on intermediaries such as Internet service providers. There are no proper provisions to ensure the accountability of intermediaries for their functions.”
Lawyers Kumar and Nevagi said Shah was not alone: many innocent people faced harassment for offences committed by others.
Shah’s PIL argued that the problems arose mainly because the police followed “conventional investigative methods unsuited to dealing with complex cyber crime”.
“There is a total lack of procedural safeguards in cyber crime investigation. Police harassment of citizens, whether out of intention or ignorance, is rampant,” the plea said.
It sought court directions to the Centre “to frame rules and guidelines for effective investigation keeping in mind the fundamental rights of citizens”.