TODAY -

Cyber crime defined: The Bhopal case

Varun Kapoor *



It has been long debated what would be the right definition for cyber crime. We can take for example the definition of the word "Theft" simply defined theft is the taking of someone else's property without his/her consent. Similarly what is the best definition of cyber crime has been a challenge for cyber experts for a long time.

The Information Technology (IT) Act of 2000 in India gave a clear indication of how to define cyber crime. According to this Act "Cyber Crime is any crime committed using a computer". This means that the computer is either used as a tool for commission of the crime or as a target of the crime.

This indicative definition was amended along with the amendment of the IT Act in the year 2008. In this amended act, cyber crime was described as "Cyber Crime is any crime committed using an electronic device".

What is the difference between a computer and an electronic device? It is quite simple. An electronic device just processes information like a fan regulator, when you increase it the fan speed increases and when you decrease it the fan speed reduces.

An air conditioner set the temperature for 22 degrees Celsius and the output will be of air which has been cooled to 22 degrees Celsius. So in an electronic device the function is simple: input process output.

Whereas a computer has many other abilities in addition to processing ability. It may have logical ability, memory ability, storage ability, mathematical ability etc. Hence a computer is a specialized electronic device. This means that electronic device is a large family and computer is a part of it.

Thus the amended IT Act of 2008 increased the scope and reach of this act by including all electronic devices rather than only computers, as specified in the original IT Act of 2000.

A rather interesting case occurred in Bhopal that will illustrate the difference this change from computers to electronic devices has made. In Bhopal there was a dealer of "Whirlpool" appliances and he sold washing machines.

But before selling any new machine he used to take out a chip (or integrated circuit) and program it in such a manner that it stopped functioning after a year. Now we all know that all machines work on some circuit (it may be an electronic, electrical or mechanical circuit) and all circuits work on a program (or software in case of an IC). Thus all machines work as their circuits are programmed.

Now when the customer took the "altered" machine home, it worked fine for a year and then as programmed it stopped working. He took it to the dealer, the dealer in turn checked the warranty of the customer and said that the warranty had expired. That was the "cheat" he purposely programmed the circuit to shut down after the warranty period expired.

The unsuspecting customer then urged the dealer to repair the machine anyway. He left the dealer knew what was wrong and why the machine was refusing to start. He took out the shut down chip which cost Rs 100 or so and replaced it with a new one and the machine resumed its normal operations.

The poor customer who had now become a victim came back to the shop and the dealer said the gas had leaked, the compressor was spoilt etc. Everyone is not a mechanic and hence they accepted the defect indicated, without further inquiry.

Then he charged an exorbitant bill Rs 8000, Rs 10000 as he wanted. This was plain and simple day light robbery and it was facilitated by the use of technology routed through an electronic device.

In normal course this is a case of Cheating and is booked under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code. This section is sometimes difficult to prove in a court of law, but that is a different discussion.

However in this particular case because a washing machine was used to cheat the victims and a washing machine is an electronic device, the IT Act was invoked and the culprit was sentenced to 3 years in prison.


[Views expressed in the column are of the author himself]


* Varun Kapoor wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Varun Kapoor is ADG Narcotics & PRTS Indore, MP
This article was webcasted on May 13 , 2018.



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