IT Act could boomerang on the woman who claims to have filmed the MLA ‘sexually abusing’ her
The woman who has accused Angamaly MLA Jose Thettayil and his son Adarsh Thettayil of sexually abusing her could be booked under the Information Technology Act, 2000, say legal experts.
The Manjapra resident told the police she had videographic evidence of the abuse, but did not hand over the footage to the police. Hours after she registered the complaint, television channels in the State began airing blurred visuals of a sexually explicit video, reportedly featuring Mr. Thettayil in a sex act. By Tuesday evening, the YouTube video of the channel’s report with the sex act polled over 1 lakh hits.
Legal experts say the complainant could be charged under the Information Technology Act because it is illegal to produce or transfer obscene materials electronically.
“She could be booked under Section 66E of the IT Act, which deals with violation of privacy, and Sections 67 and 67A, which deal with publishing or transmitting sexually explicit material in electronic form,” said advocate T.K. Ajith Kumar. “Up to seven years’ prison sentence and Rs.10 lakh fine could be awarded for these offences, which are non-bailable,” he said. The police can register a suo motu case under these Sections of the IT Act.
Section 66E prescribes punishment for “Whoever, intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without his or her consent, under circumstances violating the privacy of that person.”
An officer of the Cyber Cell of the police, however, said the woman’s filming the video was a special case as she had done it as a protective measure. The videos were evidence to back her allegations that she had been abused. The officer said the case was the first of its kind in the State. “The IT Act is up against new challenges every day and the law is evolving to deal with new cases that come up,” he said.
If the complainant is booked under the IT Act, the videos could also be looked at under the Indian Evidence Act, if it is taken as evidence in court. “Under Section 106 of the Evidence Act, a fact that is within your exclusive knowledge has to be proved by you,” said advocate Geo Paul. “The woman has said that she was raped first. She made the video later on to give weight to her accusations. The act could be considered similar to a sting operation, which may be wrong morally, but is legally valid,” he said.
The videos aired on television also raise the question of whether the complainant’s act could be considered blackmail. “Even if it is considered blackmail, blackmail is not a crime unless there is extortion,” said Mr. Paul. No accusations of extortion have been made by Mr. Thettayil or his son yet.
Mr. Thettayil denied the allegation that he had abused the woman. She was a computer expert and had morphed the videos, he said. The complainant had told the police that she filmed the videos using a web camera to protect herself against accusations that she was lying. Both Mr. Thettayil and his son have been charged with raping the complainant.