PUNE: The cyber crime cell of the Pune police has begun investigations into some websites which had photographs of anti-superstition crusaderNarendraDabholkar marked with a red cross showing hate or contempt.
Police commissioner Gulabrao Pol told TOI that an officer from the crime branch is investigating the defacing. He did not provide information on the progress of the investigation. Dabholkar was shot dead by two men on Tuesday on Vitthal Ramji Shinde bridge near Balgandharva Rangmandir while he was on his morning walk.
There has been some anger over police inaction on Dabholkar’s defaced photographs. However, senior police officials and cyber crime experts ruled out prior police action against those posting such photographs, saying that they can act only if a complaint is lodged with the police.
A senior police official told TOI that such acts do not amount to an offence. “Police action would only ensue if the act contravenes the law under some provision of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008. Many pictures in cyberspace have a ‘red cross’ over them, including those of politicians. It is a symbol conveying hatred towards somebody, which is a form of expression and thus cannot be considered amounting to an offence. It will be a far-fetched conclusion or mere speculation to think that whoever posts such hate symbols online will ultimately end up attacking/murdering the object of his hatred,” the official said.
Fraud risk management specialist Sagar Rahurkar said due diligence on the part of the police may have averted Dabholkar’s murder. “After 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, hotels tightening security measures is such an act of due diligence. However, under the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, there is no particular section/provision that says that police can take suo motu action against perpetrators sending offensive messages in cyberspace. Someone has to make a complaint in such cases and only then will investigation take place,” said Rahurkar.
Cyber crime investigation expert Sandip Gadiya too ruled out police action, saying that in such cases, the defamatory act has to be first brought to their notice. Monitoring cyberspace and all that is circulated in it is a herculean task, he added.
Another cyber crime investigation expert said the cyber cell can investigate such a case under defamation only if a complaint is lodged. “In such cases, police have the powers to launch an investigation, but only after a complaint is lodged. The cyber cell cannot on its own come to know about all the content that is being circulated online as only certain critical information (such as terrorist activity, correspondence etc) are monitored proactively by the police,” he said.
Another cyber crime investigation expert police would need infrastructure and a specialized team of cyber experts to keep the internet under vigilance.
Section 66A of the IT Act pertains to punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, but a complaint with the police terming such an action as ‘offensive’ is necessary.