Case registered by one N Naresh Kumar against Airtel Chairman Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal, Managing Director Mr. Gopal Vital, Chief Executive Officer Mr. Rohit Malhothra and Nodal Officer Mr. Stanley Agnelo under sections, 406, 504, 506(B) of the Indian Penal Code and sections, 72, 72A and 66A of the Information Technology Act has been quashed by the Karnataka High Court.
The complainant is one N Naresh Kumar, who had an ongoing divorce case pending in the Family Court at Bengaluru. During the pendency of the case he changed his mobile number and switched to an Airtel number. The complainant alleged that Airtel has disclosed his call details from October 1st 2012 to October 9th 2012 to a third party (i.e. his wife) without his consent. He stated that his wife colluded with Airtel to collect his call details.
Subsequently a case was registered under sections, 406, 504, 506(B) of the IPC and sections, 72, 72A and 66A of the IT Act. As per the direction given by the Magistrate, the Assistant Commissioner of Police submitted a report. The report clearly stated that the said allegations were false and there is no truth to whatsoever allegations are made by the complainant. Despite this on October 31st 2014 the Magistrate passed order to register cases against the Airtel Chairman and Directors.
Aggrieved by this order the petitioners (i.e. Airtel Chairman and Directors) filed an application in the Karnataka High Court under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- Karnataka High Court quashes all criminal charges alleged against Airtel Chairman and Directors.
- High Court stated it is a duty of the service providers to produce information, such as call details, to police officers when they ask them for such information for any ongoing investigation.
- High Court also stated that service providers are duty bound to provide such information if asked by police officials for any ongoing investigation.
Trial and Judgment
The petitioners argued that the concerned police officers had to collect the complainants call details because there was a complaint registered with the police that he was missing. This was the reason why police had to collect call details of the complainant. Further, the petitioners mentioned that service providers have to give such details if the police ask for it during an ongoing investigation. If they deny doing so they can be hauled for bringing obstacle in duty of a police officer.
Further the petitioners argue that section 92(2) of CrPC empowers the police to seek such information for an ongoing investigation and also stated that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has issued circular in this regard in 2014. The advocate for the petitioners Mr. CV Nagesh further argued that the question of vicarious liability would not arise out of a criminal proceeding.
The Karnataka High Court after hearing both the sides stated that the service providers are not at fault. The High Court praised the senior council for the petitioners for rightly pointing out that the service providers are duty bound to provide such information whenever it is required by the police for an ongoing investigation. High Court also said that if the service providers do not provide such information they may be liable for criminal action and face penal consequences.
High Court also pointed out to the fact that Chairman and Managing Directors are in no way involved in day to day activities of local branches, and further stated that the Chairman and Managing Director of Airtel are not liable in this case. The Karnataka High Court set aside the Magistrates order passed on October 31st 2014 and quashed all the charges alleged against Airtel Chairman and Managing Director.
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
1. Bar and Bench, Karnataka HC quashes charges against Airtel Chairman, MD in case alleging disclosure of call details without consent, https://www.barandbench.com/news/karnataka-hc-quashes-charges-against-airtel-chairman-md-in-case-filed-for-divulging-call-details (last visited 17th January 2020 2:46 AM)
2. LiveLaw, Allegation of Sharing Call Details without Consent: Karnatala HC Says ‘Service Providers Duty Bound to Provide Information Whenever Required by Police’, https://www.livelaw.in/news-updates/hc-quashes-case-against-sunil-mital-of-bharti-airtel-151606?infinitescroll=1 (last visited 17th January 2020 2:46 AM)