Your Internet password is more sacred than wife!

The case of hacking of a husband’s email by his wife has ignited debate on privacy.

Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group

As courts in India debate the first ever case of hacking of a husband’s e-mail by his wife, the development has led to a new debate on the privacy of your mail at home and at work place. The case, which came to light in August last year, is set to be heard again by the Maharashtra state adjudicating officer on August 2.

The sensational case of Neeraj Kaushik and his father Vinod Kaushik vs Madhvika Joshi, wife of Neeraj, raised for the first time the issue of alleged hacking of e-mail of her husband and father-in-law by Madhvika. The father-son duo alleged that their daughter-in-law did so to support her dowry case she had earlier filed separately with the Pune police, when the couple was staying in Pune.

Challenging the order of adjudicating officer of Maharashtra, the father-in-law moved the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT). The senior Kaushik alleged that his daughter-in-law with the help of her friends illegally hacked e-mail messages and chat sessions between the father and the son and submitted the same to police in Pune. However, the counsel for Madhvika argued the allegations made by her father-in-law on behalf of his son were without his (Neeraj’s) personal knowledge and authority.

CAT bench headed by Justice Rajesh Tandon in its June 29 ruling this year remanded the judgment back to adjudicating officer in Maharashtra. CAT also directed Neeraj to file a proper application for impleadment before the adjudicating officer. CAT directed both the sides to be present before adjudicating officer in Maharashtra on 2nd August 2011.

The alleged e-mail hacking case points to the growing bitterness and discord in relationships. As per the data tabulated by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) the cases of breach of confidentiality have increased both under the Information Technology (IT) Act and Cyber-related Sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). While an increase of 25 per cent was registered between 2008 and 2009 under the IT Act, an increase of 13.9 per cent was recorded under the IPC by NCRB. The Bureau is yet to come up with data for 2010.

The discord though, it seems, on the ground is far more profound. “Trust is under the hammer. Sadly, it appears gone are the days when sharing password with spouse was seen as a trust building process,” said psychiatrist Dr Sameer Malhotra.

Asked to specify the role technology and particularly the Internet has played in fomenting discord at home and work place, he said, “In recent times, many cases of distrust between couples have come up in India. Internet has affected family relationship to a certain extent, particularly the social networking websites.” However, Internet has also narrowed the gap of communication between the two, he argued.

Is the fear of misuse of technology at work place for real? Ashok Reddy, managing director, Team Lease, a staffing company, disclosed, “There have been quite a few companies maintaining certain policies where couples cannot work within either the same company or team.” Companies shall have to enforce more stringent rules in future if cases of either data theft or hacking of email increase, he prescribed.

According to NCRB data of 2009, cyber crime cases have increased from 288 in 2008 to 420 in 2009 under the IT Act. The cases have also increased under IPC from 176 in 2008 to 276 in 2009. A total of 3058 cases of property disputes, 2582 cases of love affairs and 1292 cases of dowry disputes were recorded by NCRB in 2009.

Refusing to blame technology for increasing cyber crime cases in India, cyber law consultant Anup Girdhar said, “No doubt cyber crime cases are increasing in families as most of the people are tech savvy. However, you can’t blame technology for creating feud in families. Internet, especially the social networking websites, has become a tool to gather information about anyone.” He argued for reviewing the IT Act since many of the sections and sub-sections were not particularly relevant to India.”

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