Two days after the Maharashtra Police pointed out to ‘e-mail letters’ exchanged between activists arrested by them in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence as evidence, an officer claimed that the activists were using a portal on the dark net to exchange these letters. A senior officer claimed that the portal ‘rise.in’ that was accessible through the dark net— an internet network that has restricted access, popular for illegal transactions — would ensure that the sender’s Internet Protocol (IP) address was not revealed, thereby maintaining anonymity. However, lawyers, representing the activists, have questioned the validity of the e-mails under the amended Evidence Act, as it is necessary to prove where a particular e-mail was sent from and received to be considered as evidence.
The police claimed to have seized “thousands” of documents from password-protected devices from the home of Rona Wilson, an activist who was arrested in June. The allegations made by the police against those arrested about “ending the Modi-raj with a Rajiv Gandhi-type incident” and “seeking money for procuring grenade launchers” are based on an e-mail letter between Rona Wilson and a CPI-Maoist leader, the police have claimed.
Joint Commissioner of Police Shivaji Bodake attached with the Pune Police said, “Like yahoo.com and gmail.com, rise.in is a dark net-based site used like a mail service, in which the original Internet Protocol address is not mentioned. Normally, when you send an email, one would come to know where the e-mail had been sent from as it would carry the IP address. E-mails sent through this network, however, ensure that the source is not traced. Those arrested have used this portal to send emails.”
Advocate Ravindranath Balla, who is representing Varavara Rao, said: “As per the amended Evidence Act, the police have to show which IP address a particular e-mail was sent from and who received it. An independent technical expert should give a certificate to that effect. If they are now saying that the IP address is not present it cannot be considered as evidence.”
Earlier at a press conference, lawyer Susan Abraham, wife of activist Vernon Gonsalves who had been arrested, had expressed concerns about the police planting evidence in the electronic devices that were seized from their house.
The police have sent several electronic equipment, including laptops and mobile phones, seized from the residence of those arrested to the Maharashtra Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) to analyse it. In the meantime, the police is operating on the basis of the mirror image of the contents of these devices and the police said they had cracked the passwords protecting these devices to access these letters.