The Telegraph
Friday , April 21 , 2017

Phone not spouse's plaything

- Snoop husband fined for violating wife's privacy

April 20: A husband has been found guilty of violating his wife's privacy by installing a software on her phone to spy on her in the first order issued by the executive adjudicating officer of the information technology department in Bengal.

Amit Kumar Sen spied on his wife Tanaya Mukherjee to surreptitiously collect information that was included in a divorce petition he had filed in a Howrah court. The executive adjudicating officer has asked Amit to pay Tanaya Rs 50,000 as compensation for violating her privacy.

"Having carefully gone through all the documents and discussions, I conclude that the respondent (husband) has violated the provisions laid down in the IT Act 2000 by accessing the computer resource and its stored information without the permission of the owner...," Talleen Kumar, the adjudicating officer, said in his judgment today.

Kumar, principal secretary of the state information and technology department, had been appointed adjudicator in the case filed by Shibpur police of Howrah on the basis of a complaint by Tanaya in 2014.

The adjudicator said in his verdict: "It is ordered that the respondent (Amit) pay a compensation of Rs 50,000 to the complainant (Tanaya) within a period of one month from the date of service of this order."

The verdict could be challenged before the high court.

Tanaya, a resident of Khsetra Mohan Banerjee Lane of Shibpur in Howrah, had married Amit, a resident of Golabari, Salkia, also in Howrah, on May 20, 2013.

Tanaya's lawyer said that "based on her faith and love", she had shared her Facebook and email IDs and passwords with her husband.

In her complaint to the police, Tanaya, who is in her thirties and is employed as an administrator at an export-import firm, said her husband was suspicious of her and used to check her call logs and text messages. The two had met on Facebook and got married after a brief romance.

Tanaya said that because of her husband's suspicious nature, she felt her marriage was faltering, and left his home after a few months to stay with her parents. But in the first week of January 2014, Amit brought her back, ostensibly to celebrate her birthday, and borrowed her phone for a day. When she got it back, she heard a strange echoing noise in the background when she used the phone.

She also received an Internet package on the phone, which she activated to access Facebook. Later, she realised that her husband had installed a software called TeamViewer in her mobile phone to record the conversations and keep a back-up of call logs and text messages, which he could access through a related website.

TeamViewer is an app that allows its user to remote-control a computer, smartphone or tablet. Such software is often used to troubleshoot tech problems without physically reaching the device.

The information that Amit cited in his divorce suit contains Tanaya's conversations with her family and friends, in most of which she is soliciting advice on how to deal with the problems of her marriage.

In February 2014, Tanaya received a letter of injunction from a civil judge of Howrah, which stopped her from visiting her husband's and in-laws' residence. In June 2014, she came to know that Amit had filed a suit seeking divorce.

From the divorce case papers, she came to know that her husband had installed the software and accessed her calls, messages and mail.

From February, Tanaya said, her husband could not be traced despite several attempts by her to communicate with him.

After receiving the complaint from Tanaya, the Shibpur police referred the matter to the IT department for adjudication. Both the parties were heard in detail by the adjudicator.

Tanaya's counsel, Bibhas Chatterjee, said before the adjudicator that a husband couldn't claim the right to encroach on the privacy of his wife. "The husband had violated some of the provisions of the IT Act by illegally accessing the private calls and texts and mails of his wife," Chatterjee said.

Appearing for the husband, advocate Alok Kumar Laha opposed the prayer and denied the allegation that his client had installed a software in his wife's mobile phone.

After hearing both the parties, the adjudicator delivered the verdict today. "It is for the first time a case was disposed of under cyber law by the executive adjudicator in Bengal," Chatterjee said after the verdict. Senior advocates in Calcutta High Court echoed him.

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