Observing that citizens have been rendered vulnerable by “insouciant indifference of the Google authorities”, a Delhi judge has ordered police to investigate Google authorities for criminal conspiracy in a cyber-fraud case, after the police argued that Google was a “partner in crime” for allegedly receiving Rs 30 lakh from cybercriminals to feature their fake website on its top searches.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana ordered DCP Cyber Cell to investigate the role of Google authorities for conspiracy and abetment. The judge gave the order while rejecting bail applications of two men accused of being part of a cyber fraud racket that made fake websites to target people who were trying to register cyber fraud complaints.
ASJ Rana said, “Google search has become an indispensable part of one’s daily life” and added: “If you are not paying for the product, you are the product. The citizens have been rendered vulnerable and exposed by insouciant indifference of the Google authorities.”
The judge said that he was conscious of his limited role during hearing of bail applications, but was “equally conscious of the onerous duty of monitoring the investigations and the sacrosanct duty of all public institutions owed to its masters, the common citizens of the country.”
The case is being investigated by the Special Cell of Delhi Police, which registered an FIR on October 21 under IPC sections 419 (punishment for cheating by personation), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 120B IPC (punishment of criminal conspiracy).
The complainant is an advisor, who was first scammed by a fake website that duped him Rs 62,500 when he tried to purchase a mobile phone. He then tried to register a complaint and found a website named ‘Jan Suraksha Kendra’. The complainant gave Rs 2,800 to agents on this website, thinking they would help investigate his cyber complaint. However, they soon blocked his number.
State prosecutor Irfan Ahmed opposed the bail application of Omendra Shrivastav and Sourabh Pandey, who worked as telecallers in the alleged racket. They allegedly took anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 30,000 in the name of a ‘registration amount’.
ASJ Rana said that incidents of cybercrime using fake and fraudulent websites has reached “alarming proportions” and that every day, lakhs of “gullible citizens are cheated with impunity”.
The court said it was unfortunate that such fraudulent websites show up on top when an innocent citizen searches online. “Apparently, the police is not taking any concrete action against the platforms, which facilitates the commission of such offences,” the court said.
Ahmad told the court, “Google is in fact charging its clients to reflect their websites on the top in Google search… in the instant case also, Google received Rs 30 lakh from the accused and that is how the website of the accused surfaced on the top in Google search… by intentionally aiding the main culprits, Google is in fact partners in crime and their role needs to be investigated.”