The modus operandi of cyber criminals is changing and the court cannot remain immune to sufferings of people who are cheated by app developers who misuse phone data and blackmail them, the Delhi High Court has said.
The high court said it is saddening to see people are not aware that once they give access of their contacts and images to an app they have downloaded on their mobilephones, the developer, in case of being a criminal, misuses images, morphs them and sends them in inappropriate form to their social contacts, and thereafter, blackmails users.
Its observations came while dismissing the bail plea of a man accused of extorting lakhs of rupees from several people by morphing pictures stored in their mobiles, and sending them to their relatives.
“The courts also have to remain conscious of the social context in which the crime is committed and how it impacts the society. The same needs to be kept in mind while granting bail to an accused. The offences, as the present one, are impacting the society at large, especially the poor and at times those who are not well-versed with the emerging cyber crimes, which are changing and are rising in innovative form on a daily basis,” Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said.
In case such criminals are not dealt with a heavy hand and are enlarged on bail while there is material on record to show transactions have taken place from their mobile phones or computers and inappropriate morphed images of people have been sent and they have been blackmailed, it may send a wrong signal to society that such offences can be committed and one can get away with these easily, the court said.
In the present case, a complaint was lodged by the victim that he had received messages on his mobile for loan for the third COVID-19 vaccine dose, and on clicking the given link, he was made to a download app called ‘Express Loan’.
When the complainant filled the details of his Aadhar Card and PAN in the app, Rs 4,200 was instantly credited to his bank account.
However, after four days of availing the loan, he started receiving threat calls from the developers of ‘Express Loan’ who had got access to his phone contacts. The accused started sending morphed images to his contacts.
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The police said during inquiry, it was found out that 46 more complaints have been registered against the app, ‘Express Loan’ and a total amount of transactions undertaken by several persons involved in the conspiracy was Rs 140 crore.
The high court was informed that several accused were arrested in the case and some of them have been granted bail.
Accused Vineet Jhavar, on whose bail plea the court passed the order, said the charge sheet mentioned that Rs 2.1 lakh were received by him and added that there was no alleged financial benefit or withdrawal by him.
The court said prima facie the record revealed that the modus operandi adopted by this accused was that once the app was downloaded by people, they were baited with to a loan grant and once they accept the conditions, they unknowingly gave access to all their contacts and images to the app and its developers.
Thereafter, the victims were threatened by the accused and their morphed images were shared with their contacts to extort money from them, the court noted.
“In these circumstances, this court, without going into much detail as to how these offences should be dealt with a stern hand, finds it a case which is not fit for grant of bail,” it said.
The court said that “being at the stage of investigation itself and also keeping in mind the conduct of the present applicant of taking premises on rent, having used that residential address for obtaining SIM cards and opening bank accounts, misusing them for duping people at large and then absconding for considerable period before being arrested by the investigating agency, the bail application stands rejected”.