I.T.C. Ltd. and Anr. v. State of U.P. and Anr.
(2008) 62 ACC 875
In the High Court of Allahabad
Cr. Misc. Application No. 12986 of 2006
Before Justice Amar Saran
Decided on July 9, 2008
Relevancy of the case: Alteration and deletion of information from any computer resource
Statutes & Provisions Involved
- The Information Technology Act, 2000 (Section 65, 66)
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Sections 467, 468, 471)
Relevant Facts of the Case
- The complainant was the convenor of the village Minaura “E-Choupal” programme run by ITC Ltd. His duty was to provide seeds to the villagers at a reasonable price and provide them with the necessary information.
- The complainant’s source for these seeds was from the distributor of seeds in Mittal Traders named Anoop Kumar Mittal, who is the co-accused in the present case.
- While distribution, one variety of seed PU-35 was found to be adulterated and was of poor quality. The farmers of the village raised questions to the convenor regarding the quality and this was immediately informed to the Agriculture Officer and other officials of the company.
- As a response to that, the company did not take any action. However, they stole the complainant’s computer with the help of their distributor, Anoop Kumar Mittal and destroyed some important information and data stored on the computer. This cost him his job.
- At the same time, there were some disputes between ITC and village agriculturists. The branch manager, District Distributor, Anoop Kumar Mittal and district Agriculture Officer managed to forge and fabricate documents and used it to release the liability of the company and shift it to the complainant. The lot of seeds which was not distributed was given for sample test and not the ones distributed.
- An application was filed under Section 156(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure as no action was taken by the police on the matter. Charges under Sections 467, 468, 471 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 65 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 were laid down.
Prominent Arguments by the Advocates
Counsels for the Applicants:
- There was no offence committed which amounts to forgery or any offence under Section 467, 468 and 471 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. There were no allegations or records which proved that the document was fraudulently made with the intention of causing it to be believed that the said document was signed, executed, transmitted by the authority of a person whom he knows that it wasn’t signed, executed, transmitted, etc.
- It was also submitted that there was no offence committed under Section 65 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 because there was no allegation of concealment, destruction or alteration of “computer source code.” Deletion of information, therefore, does not amount to any offence under Section 65.
- It was further submitted that the branch manager was concerned as it was as per his directions that this was all carried out but there was no substantiation of this allegation in the complaint or the evidence adduced.
Opinion of the Bench
- It cannot be inferred that there was no offence committed under Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, which is about hacking the computer system. If anyone deletes or changes any information in a computer resource, it amounts to hacking.
- In this case, the information was removed from the complaint’s computer which may have contained information about actual distribution of seeds.
- The bench had an opinion that the charges made against the accused should be replaced with other suitable provisions under which he has been presently summoned. The court is free to alter the charges and exercise powers under Section 216 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- The bench also held that the branch manager (applicant) is vicariously liable for the acts committed under his directions by the workers in the conspiracy to place a wrong report. The role of the branch manager cannot be ruled out as the computer was stolen with an intention to delete data related to the seeds collection. This was decided by quoting the case of Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Ram Kishan Rohtagi.
- The application is partly allowed and partly disposed of.
This case summary has been prepared by Gitanjali Sadan, an undergraduate student at Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad, during her internship with The Cyber Blog India in June/July 2020.