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By Vrinda Agarwal

Marriage breakups, divorce or separation are by nature acrimonious. One side, or sometimes both dig deep into the dirty tricks reservoir to come up with something that could cause harm to the other, if not one another. One victim of such tactics could have been Nidhi Bhola, a resident of Delhi, who for sometime now has been at the receiving end of her estranged husband’s quirks. Fortunately for her, a guardian angel came in the form of the Delhi high court in the recent matter of Lalit Bhola v State and Another.

Nidhi’s husband, Lalit Bhola, whom she has been estranged from, allegedly created fake online accounts in her name on websites which are used for the sale and purchase of commodities. He also published a description of the wife and expressed a desire for companionship. Following this, she started receiving humiliating messages. When she realised that her estranged husband was the one responsible for the strange turn of events, she filed an FIR against him in 2015 under Section 66C of the Information Technology Act (IT Act), 2000. Section 66C of the IT Act provides that “whoever, fraudulently or dishonestly make use of the electronic signature, password or any other unique identification feature of any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine with may extend to rupees one lakh.”

Subsequently, the husband approached the Delhi High Court seeking quashing of the FIR on the grounds that the complaint was an offshoot of a matrimonial dispute and that he and his wife had settled the dispute through a settlement agreement executed between them. The wife also submitted before the Court that she had arrived at a “holistic settlement” with the petitioner and thus did not wish to prosecute him for the alleged offence.

A single-judge bench of the Delhi High Court took cognisance of the wife’s submission and directed that the FIR against the husband and the consequent proceedings emanating therefrom be quashed, while imposing a cost of Rs 1 lakh on the husband, to be deposited towards the Kerala relief fund, within three weeks from the date of the order. The Court imposed cost on the husband saying it “would act as a deterrent to the petitioner so that he does not repeat his conduct in future.”

“The allegations in the FIR about the conduct of the petitioner are shocking. I am inclined to quash the complaint solely for the reason that continuation of the proceedings would be further humiliating and traumatic for respondent No. 2 (complainant). She has settled her disputes with the petitioner and has expressed her desire not to prosecute the complaint any further,” observed Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva of the Delhi High Court. Justice Sachdeva further applauded the wife for deciding to withdraw her complaint and said: “Facts of the case show how big the heart of a woman is. She, even after being humiliated at the hands of her husband, is willing to forgive him and forget his conduct.”

In an age where social media has become ubiquitous and offers quick and easy avenues for those looking to play dirty, this order comes as a timely reminder that such tactics will not be tolerated by courts and will attract severe consequences.

Nidhi wasn’t alone. In June 2018, a 35-year-old man was arrested in Bengaluru for allegedly posting his wife’s personal details like photographs and contact details on dating websites in order to harass her. The man was held by the cops after the wife, who had started living separately following trouble in the marriage, started receiving unknown calls from people seeking sexual favour.

In February 2018, a 28-year-old man was arrested in Nalasopara, Mumbai, for allegedly creating nine fake social media profiles of his former wife, posting derogatory comments on them and sending friend requests to random men. In his confession to the police, he admitted that he had done so with an intention to defame his wife after they got divorced.

In November 2017, a dispute between an estranged couple from Ghaziabad led to trouble for the wife’s mother as the estranged husband created a fake account on Facebook and posted his mother-in-law’s mobile number on the site.

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