OFFENCES UNDER THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACT

The Information Technology Act, 2000 (“Act”), introduced at the cusp of the digital era in India, was promulgated with a view to recognise electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication. The Act was amended in 2008. This blog provides an overview of various offences under the Act. 

Sending offensive messages through communication channels

Section 66A provides for punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc. If any person electronically sends any offensive or menacing or false information or email for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will he shall be punished with up to 3 years imprisonment and with fine. 

On 09.11.2010, a fake profile of the then-President of India, Prathibha Devisingh Patil, was created by an imposter. A complaint was made regarding the fake profile and a FIR was registered under 66A of the Act. The sessions court in the case held that there were no grounds to proceed against the accused as no necessary data was found in the hard disk of his computer. It was also contended by the counsel for the accused that as per the chargesheet, the broadband connection was given to the accused on 07.07.2007, whereas the profile was allegedly created on 30.06.2007, before the appointment of Prathibha Patil as President. It was further argued that the accused cannot be charged by merely relying upon the Internet Protocol address. The Karnataka HC upheld the Session Court’s judgment and discharged the accused. 

Similarly in 2009, a teenager was arrested by the Bangalore cybercrime investigation cell for allegedly sending a hoax bomb email to a private news channel. The mail that the news channel received read, “I have planted five bombs in Mumbai; you have two hours to find it.” The police traced the IP address to Vijayanagar. 

Impersonation as a offence 

Section 66D deals with cheating by impersonating another by electronic means. If a person, by means of any electronic device impersonates, and cheats another, he shall be punished with imprisonment of up to three years and shall also be liable to fine of up to one lakh rupees. Sandeep Varghese v. State of Kerala (Bail Application No. 2003 of 2010) dealt with a complaint filed by a company engaged in the business of trading and distribution of petrochemicals. The company’s website was duplicated under a similar but fake domain name by Sandeep Varghese, an ex-employee, in conspiracy with others. The accused posted defamatory and malicious statements about the company and its directors on the fake website. They further committed acts of cheating by impersonating the company, through sending emails from fake email accounts to many customers, suppliers, and banks.

Violating privacy

Section 66E provides for punishment for violation of privacy. Whoever intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits images of the genitalia or private parts of any person without his or her consent can be punished with imprisonment of up to three years or with fine of up to two lakh rupees or both. The infamous JNU MMS scandal in which a pornographic clip was transmitted by MMS in and outside Jawaharlal Nehru University. The media reported the accused tried to extort money from the prosecutrix and transmitted the sex tape when she failed to comply with the demands for money. Such incidents are punishable under section 66E the Act. 

Obscene representation

Section 67 provides punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form. Whoever publishes or transmits in electronic form, any material which is lascivious, can be punished with imprisonment of up to three years and with fine up to five lakh rupees. In the event of a second or subsequent conviction, imprisonment may be up to five years and fine up to ten lakh rupees. The infamous Instagram page, Bois Locker Room, took centre stage in the media recently for containing morphed images of underage girls posted on Instagram by adolescent boys. The page objectified and passed derogatory remarks on the girls. The matter was taken up by the Delhi Commission for Women and a notice was issued to Instagram and the Delhi Police. The Delhi Police took cognizance of the matter and registered a case against the boys operating the page under sections 67 and 67A the Act. 

Obscene representation of children

Section 67B provides for punishment for publishing or transmitting material depicting children in sexually explicit acts in electronic form. A person convicted under this section can be punished, on the first conviction, with imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to ten lakh rupees. In the event of a second or subsequent conviction, a person may be punished with imprisonment of up to seven years and fine of up to ten lakh rupees.

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