K.P.M. Basheer

First arrest after amended IT Act came into force

New IT Act came into force on October 27

It can tackle a large number of cyber crimes

KOCHI: The first such arrest in the country in less than three weeks after the amended Information Technology Act took effect, the case against two youths for altering and forwarding an e-mail offensive to CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan demonstrates the teeth of the new law that aims to battle cyber crimes.

K.R. Manoj of Kayamkulam and Karthik of Kottayam were arrested on Sunday by the Cyber Police for e-mailing the picture of a palatial house falsely claiming that it belonged to Mr. Vijayan. The mansion, located near Thrissur, was actually owned by a non-resident Malayali businessman. On a complaint by Mr. Vijayan, the Cyber Police tracked down the two and arrested them under Section 66 A of the new IT Act.

The arrest, while demonstrating the potential of the amended Act to tackle a large number of cyber crimes, also points to the dangers of downloading, altering and forwarding e-mails—in the huge majority of instances, just for fun— that can harm the reputation of individuals, groups and organisations. For instance, Section 66 A, offences under which can be punished with three years in jail and a huge fine, is very comprehensive.

The section defines ‘electronic mail’ and ‘electronic mail message’ as “a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, image, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message,” thus leaving no loophole for the offender to slip through. The arrest thus serves as a warning to those who forward malicious mail for fun.

Scope for abuse

However, this section has scope for Internet users, especially young ones, getting caught as most of them forward offending mails for fun and without malicious intent. Anvar Sadat, executive director of the IT@School project, who has published a book on cyber laws, says the amended IT Act 2008 has room for being abused, too. He pointed out that it empowers a police inspector to arrest an alleged offender without a warrant. ‘E-bribery’ could be one of the unintended fallouts of the Act.

Hard on pornography

The Act is very hard on pornography. In fact, the amendment to the IT Act 2000 was triggered by the furore over child pornography featuring two students of a well-known Delhi school back in 2004.

An engineering student had procured the pornographic material and put it on sale on an online auction portal. (The CEO of the portal was arrested in December 2004.)

Section 67 A says that ‘Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted in the electronic form any material which contains sexually explicit act or conduct shall be punished,’ on first conviction, with imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to Rs.10 lakh. The jail term for the second conviction is seven years.