The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down Section 66A of Information Technology Act saying the clause struck at the root of liberty and freedom of expression. It, however, does not mean that sending abusive messages through a computer or communication device will exempt an offender from conviction. A cyber culprit can still be sentenced under similar provisions of the IT Act, IPC and state-enacted provisions that criminalize harassment.
A software engineer learned this the hard way. Srinath Nambudri of Karnataka will now cool his heels in prison for one year on the charge of harassing a woman colleague after she spurned his advances. The cyber cell of the CB-CID, in December 2011, had registered a case against Nambudri under various provisions including Section 66A of IT Act (sending offensive and menacing electronic mail.
On Tuesday, even as the Supreme Court said Section 66A of the IT Act was unconstitutional and struck it down, a city court, perhaps following the dictum, absolved him from conviction under the section. But he was found guilty of charges under Section 67 (punishment for publishing or obscene material in electronic form) of the IT Act, 506 (ii) (criminal intimidation, if threat be to cause death or grievous hurt) and 509 (uttering any word or making any gesture to insult the modesty of a woman) of IPC, along with Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998.
According to police, Nambduri was working as a software engineer at TCS, Siruseri. He was attracted to a colleague, and expressed his love to her. When she spurned his advances, an infuriated Nambudri started sending several obscene and derogatory emails to her from April 2011. On one occasion, when the woman went to the US on an official visit, he emailed malicious contents about her to the company's head. Nambudri also sent a morphed nude picture of the woman to her brother. "He continued to stalk and eve-tease the woman electronically for several months," said special public prosecutor Mary Jayanthi.
After returning to Chennai, she lodged a complaint with cyber wing of CBCID. It was only then did the police register a case against Nambudri.
During the proceedings on Tuesday, Nambudri offered suitable compensation to the victim. Prosecutor Jayanthi opposed his contention stating it was a serious charge of harassment. Despite getting married after lodging the complaint, the victim-woman had pursued the case, and wanted the ends of justice to be met, said Jayanthi.