Importance of digital evidence in court of law

Published: 01st September 2012 11:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2012 11:56 AM   |  A+A-

With cyber criminals getting smarter and destruction of digital evidence becoming rampant, hampering investigations, Shubha Mangala Sunil, Founder Chairperson, Cyber Security Response Team tells City Express that today electronic evidence is considered important and valuable in the court of law.

* Does social media evidence help or hamper investigation?

Social media, in many cases, helps further the investigation to a large extent.

It is today one of the strongest pieces of evidence that investigators use to either track down a criminal or find out the mental stability of the victim/criminal around the same time that the crime took place. However, a daunting worry in cyber crime investigation is the destruction of evidence.

* Could you give us a few examples where social media proof was used in the court of law?

In many cases this year, we have seen people using digital evidence and magistrates have accepted this proof as secondary evidence.

In Andhra Pradesh this year, a wife used a photo extracted from her husband’s Twitter account to prove that he was not on a business trip like he claimed, but was caught in an uncompromising position with another woman. Incidentally, the lady’s friend found it on the social networking site and brought it to her notice.

Divorce was granted in that case. In another case, when the Facebook account of a prominent celebrity was deleted immediately after her death, it was revealed that her boyfriend had deleted the account, lest her husband find out the comments they had been posting on each other’s walls.

* What are the other aspects to such cases that investigators look into?

In certain cases, psychologists are hired to decipher the status messages, the photos, friend lists, comments passed by a set of people who the investigators doubt in respective cases. Many times, core facts about the criminal are revealed through their social media updates.

In a recent case, a criminal had updated a status message saying ‘will take major steps next week’ and the very next week there was a big burglary case that came to light. The IP address of the criminal was tracked down and he was nabbed.

* Do legal professionals depend a lot on digital evidence?

Many a time, legal professionals rely solely on digital evidence and it does help crack cases. Further, what works in their favour if they have managed to get their hands on digital evidence is the fact that they’ve studied the criminal even before they have tracked them down.

* What does the law state about criminal investigation involving digital evidence?

Evidentiary value of electronic records is discussed widely under Section 65 (A) and (B) of the Evidence Act 1872.

As per these sections, if four main criteria are fulfilled, any information contained in an electronic record which is printed on paper, stored, recorded or copied in an optical or magnetic media, produced by a computer is deemed to be a document and becomes admissible in proceedings without further proof or production of the original.


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