By : Advocate Bhasin,
In the cyber age the traditional love marriages and arranged marriages are replaced by online affairs and digitally arranged marriages. Cyberspace has made getting into relationships pretty easy. There are online dating websites and online matrimonial websites, where you simply fill in your partner requirements and get a list of prospective compatible matches. Most of these are paid services. The advent of relationships through the internet has changed the structure, functioning and sustainability of relationships in India. Cyberspace brings with it many dangers like anonymity and lack of personal contact, both of which are key ingredients to healthy relationships in the real world.
There are many instances of fake or misrepresented Facebook/social media profiles and matrimonial profiles on online portals. Posting incorrect information on age, religion or marital status are the most common problems in online marriage portals, as is lying about salary. According to informal estimates by a few divorce lawyers in my circle, nearly half of marital break-ups involve partners who met online and about seven cases out of every 10 that are of marriages arranged through matrimonial websites.
A big reason for this is Cyber Personation, which is made very easy with the advent of online portals for relationships. People can write anything on their virtual profiles without scrutiny.
In May 2012, two men were arrested in Madurai for cheating women on online matrimonial websites with the promise of marrying them. Most of their victims were well-educated and working in the IT sector, while some were even living abroad. Their modus operandi was that they would make a very good online matrimonial profile and after establishing contact as a prospective bridegroom, they used to befriend the girls through social networking chats and the mobile.
Further, they used the magic voice option on the mobile phone to pose as parents of the groom. After gaining their confidence, they used to demand money from the girls and asked them to deposit the cash in bank accounts. After collecting the money, they used to disconnect all communication with the girls and create new profiles to attract further victims. Apparently they even blackmailed a few victims by taking semi-nude photographs of them through a webcam while chatting, to extract money from the girls.
There are many cases where people realize that they are the victims of this cyber crime after they are already married to such fraudsters, when it turns out that the online matrimonial profiles of their spouse had completely fake details.
However, there is legal recourse for victims of such cheating.
Section 66-D of the Information Technology Act, 2000 provides for punishment for cheating by personation by using a computer resource. This legal provision reads as under:
“Whoever, by means for any communication device or computer resource cheats by personating, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.”
This provision envisages that if a person assumes the character or appearance which is not what he really is or passes oneself off as someone he really is not, especially with fraudulent intent, then the victim can file a complaint before the Adjudicating Officer under this provision. The victim can be awarded a fine of upto 1 lakh Rupees.
The Rules under the Information Technology Act provide that the Adjudicating Officer is required to hear and decide an application in 4 months, and the whole matter has to be decided in 6 months.
The online dating and matrimonial portals can also be held liable under the Information Technology Act as there are certain liabilities associated with “Intermediaries” under the Information Technology Act.
The Online Service Providers being “Intermediaries” can be held liable under Section 79 (3) (a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 if:
“the intermediary has conspired or abetted or aided or induced, whether by threats or promise or otherwise in the commission of the unlawful act.”
The matrimonial websites do promise suitable matches and keep emailing the same to the registered users, and also at times charge for specialized services of match making whereby they are presumed to have verified the credentials of the parties, thereby making them liable under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Also, along with action under the Information Technology Act, it is advisable to simultaneously file an FIR under Section 415, 416, 417, 419 and 420 of the Indian Penal Code. All these sections deal with cheating and cheating by personation.
If you are a victim of such a cyber crime, then there is legal recourse available under the Information Technology Act against the fraudster and the Intermediary. You can directly file a complaint before the Adjudicating Officer, Ministry of Information Technology, Information Technology Act, 2000. The format for the complaint is below, and is required to be on a plain paper and submitted along with the fees payable, which is calculated on the basis of damages claimed by way of compensation. You can file this complaint on your own, without a lawyer being involved – but it is advisable to take help of a lawyer in the trial stage at least.
The real face behind the fake profile can be traced through the IP address or bank account details used to make paid profiles online.
THE GAZETTE OF INDIA
Section 3, Sub-Section (i)
MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION
(Department of Information Technology)
New Delhi, 17th March, 2003
PROFORMA FOR COMPLAINT TO ADJUDICATING OFFICER
UNDER INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACT
I 1. Name of the Complainant
Address for correspondence
Digital Signature Certificate, if any
II 1. Name of the Respondent
Address for correspondence
Digital Signature Certificate, if any
III Damages claimed
Demand Draft No.____________dated __________Branch_______
IV Complaint under Section/Rule/Direction/Order etc.
V Time of Contravention
VI Place of Contravention
VII Cause of action
VIII Brief facts of the case
(Signature of the Complainant)
The fees payable is determined in the following manner:
Every complaint of a matter to the Adjudicating Officer shall be accompanied by·Application fee of Rs. 50/- and fee towards damages claimed by way of compensation from the contraveners, payable by a bank draft drawn in favour of “Adjudicating Officer Information Technology Act” at Mumbai, Maharashtra, calculated on the basis on the rates provided below.
Damages by way of compensation
10% ad valorem rounded off to nearest next hundred
From 10001 to Rs. 50000
Rs. 1000 plus 5% of the amount exceeding Rs. 10,000 rounded off to nearest next hundred
From Rs. 50001 to Rs. 100000
Rs. 3000/- plus 4% of the amount exceeding Rs. 50,000 rounded off to nearest next hundred
More than Rs. 100000
Rs.5000/- plus 2% of the amount exceeding Rs. 100,000 rounded off to nearest next hundred
Fee for Every Application
The Complaint along with the fees in case of jurisdiction being Mumbai, is required to be submitted to: Adjudicating Officer, c/o Directorate of Information Technology, 7th Floor, Mantralaya, Madam Cama Road, Hutatma Rajguru Chowk, Nariman Point, Mumbai – 400021
Disclaimer: This is a purely for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.