Ten years after the case was registered, an Alipore Court has found one, Suddhachit Banerjee, guilty of having created a fake Facebook profile to harass a woman by publishing morphed pictures of her on the fake profile.
On Monday, Judge Dalia Bhattacharya found Banerjee guilty of offences under Sections 66C (punishment for identity theft) /66D (punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource) and 67A (punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act, in perhaps one of the earliest such fake Facebook profile cases.
The Court found that he had stolen the victim’s identity in the most vulnerable manner and that he has used his computer to publish sexually explicit material on the fake Facebook profile created by him.
The Court opined that the accused should not go unpunished as “he not only expressed his vengeance in most derogatory manner by defaming the victim girl publicly but has also committed a social crime against woman disregarding her character, sentiments, emotions and effecting her womanhood permanently.”
“The changes in the living standards, lifestyle, imbalance in the economic growth, changes in social ethos and meagre concern for the moral values contribute to a vicious outlook towards women due to which there is multiplication in crimes against women…such incidents are a matter of grave concern and its structure is absolutely necessary so that the women of India could live with respect, honour, dignity, liberty and peace in an atmosphere free from atrocities, denigration and heinous crimes… Social media crimes are increasing day by day. With the emerging virtual word of internet several crimes have become predominant including creation of fake profiles, posting offensive contents including morphed photographs on the fake profile.”, reads the judgment further.
By way of background, the victim, then a law student, had noticed the fake Facebook profile in October 2010. After her father was informed, he lodged a complaint against unknown persons in March 2011. Following an investigation, Banerjee was arrested in September 2011 by the CID, West Bengal.
The prosecution told the Court that Banerjee had created the fake Facebook profile with a motive of revenge. It was stated that Banerjee’s girlfriend had been insulted by the victim in a separate incident. On seeing his girlfriend demoralised, Banerjee had created the fake profile of the victim motivated by revenge.
On request, Facebook and BSNL provided details, including mobile number and IP address, connecting the fake profile with Banerjee’s father. On a raid, Banerjee’s parents said that they were not too computer-literate and that the computer was mostly being used by their son for his education.
Among other grounds raised in trial, the defence counsel pointed out that there was a delay in registering the FIR. He also raised objections regarding the evidence presented. The Court, however, opined that since the offence was a continuing one, there was no delay in the FIR registration.
In the course of the judgment, the Court also observed that violence and crimes against women are increasing. the recent years. The global crusade for the decimation of violence against women is a proof to this fact, the Judge said.
The Court observed that these types of social media crimes should be immediately curbed. It added,
“…these types of men like the present accused person should be restrained from committing social crimes like this just for the sake of taking revenge of primitive nature and demoralising the confidence of the victim girl of good social reputation permanently. These types of social crimes if go unpunished just for some trivial reason being faulty investigation shall be shameful and moreover, expert evidence and the chain of custody of the evidence in this case has been well proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubts to combat the irregularities in investigation procedure.”
The prosecution in the case was led by Special Public Prosecutor Bisvas Chatterjee.