CB-CID to dust off criminal appeal pending against ‘Savukku’ Shankar since 2017

The YouTuber, who earlier worked with the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption, was accused in 2008 of stealing electronic data; the CB-CID’s petition against his acquittal will be taken up by the Madras High Court on March 13

Updated - March 05, 2024 12:39 pm IST

Published - March 05, 2024 12:38 pm IST - CHENNAI

YouTuber ‘Savukku’ Shankar alias A. Shankar

YouTuber ‘Savukku’ Shankar alias A. Shankar | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) has decided to dust off a criminal appeal pending in the Madras High Court against ‘Savukku’ Shankar alias A. Shankar of Savukku Media, since 2017. The appeal had challenged his acquittal from a case booked for allegedly stealing electronic data from the office of the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) in 2008.

Justice M. Nirmal Kumar has decided to take up for hearing, on March 13, the petition filed by the CB-CID seeking the leave (permission) of the High Court to prefer the appeal against the judgement passed by an Additional Sessions Court in Chennai on February 24, 2017. The judge took the call after a Government Advocate (criminal side) said that he was ready for final arguments.

The charge against the respondent was that he had committed the crime while serving as a special assisant in the confidential section of DVAC’s office at its then newly-constructed building in Raja Annamalaipuram in Chennai in 2008. The prosecution accused him of having been disgruntled due to the denial of a promotion to the post of Assistant Section Officer at the Secretariat.

According to the Cyber Crime Cell of the CB-CID, N. Vijayarajan was serving as the legal advisor to DVAC in 2008, and his office was located on the ground floor of the building. The legal advisor was in possession of some confidential files on his computer. Taking advantage of his absence on April 1, 2008, the respondent had unauthorisedly gained access to that computer and had transferred some audio files from the computer to a pen drive titled ‘Sujatha,’ the prosecution claimed. One of the files contained a conversation between then DVAC Director S.K. Upadhyay and then Chief Secretary L.K. Tripathy. The details of the conversation were subsequently published in a newspaper and telecast on a Tamil TV news channel on April 14, 2008.

Therefore, the CB-CID had booked him under Sections 66, 70 and 72 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 on the basis of a complaint lodged by Home Secretary S. Malathi on July 17, 2008. After a full-fledged trial in which as many as 45 witnesses were examined, the Additional Sessions Court held that the prosecution had not proved the guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Though the prosecution had relied upon six technically-sound witnesses to substantiate the charge of unauthorised usage of the computer, the Sessions Court had refused to accept the evidence of those experts since no authorised agency had been notified in the State to give an opinion on electronic evidence as required under Section 79A of the IT Act.

Further, the trial court had also pointed out that the legal advisor Mr. Vijayarajan, examined as a prosecution witness, had categorically deposed that he was not aware of any unauthorised use of his computer and that it would not be possible for anyone to access his computer, even in his absence, without the knowledge of his typist and office assistant stationed in the office.

Yet another prosecution witness S. Prabakaran, who maintained the computer systems in the DVAC office, had told the court it was he who had created an additional backup of the Director’s audio files on the computer of the legal advisor. According to him, this backup was kept hidden and it could be accessed only with a password known to him and his assistant Hariharasudhan.

Mr. Prabakaran had also stated that no one but him and his assistant know about the creation of the backup in the legal advisor’s computer and that he had not revealed anything about it to the respondent. “To sum up everything, the prosecution has not proved the charges levelled against the accused beyond all reasonable doubts. In the result, the accused found not guilty,” the Sessions court had concluded.

Though the CB-CID had preferred an appeal against this verdict, along with a petition seeking the leave of the court to file the appeal, on June 9, 2017, it remained pending without any significant progress, till date.

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