The Delhi High Court recently approached Delhi Police Cyber Cell's status report in a plea pertaining to alleged click fraud and other digital criminal fraud and other digital criminal frauds hatched by Facebook thereby seeking directions on Union of India, Delhi Police and Cyber Crime Cell to jointly constitute a Special Investigation Unit (SIT) for investigating into the complaint made by the petitioner company.
Justice Anu Malhotra vide order dated Wednesday March, 24th, 2021 asked the Cyber Crime Cell to file the status report and listed the matter for further hearing on Thursday April 15th 2021.
The petition was filed by Vas Data Services Pvt. Ltd., a company running its operations through www.yepme.com. It also claimed that Facebook, maliciously acted and misused its dominance in the clickable advertisement industry, causing undue and unlawful losses to the petitioner company.
The petitioner company was represented through Senior Advocate Maninder Singh along with other Advocates namely Gaurav Singh, Aekta Vats, Anuj Singh, Vediccaa Ramdanee and Anant Singh.
The petitioner company claimed that on being induced by Facebook’s market reputation, it had availed the ad services from Facebook.
However, in the event of any Facebook user clicking the petitioner's advertisement, majority of them ended up on the petitioner's web page due to which increase in traffic of prospective customers could not be achieved.
Petitioner's Complaint Against Facebook With Cyber Cell
The petitioner company was availing Facebook’s services 2011, made periodic payments on the number of clicks landing on its website on the basis of invoices submitted by Facebook. But, after noticing a drop in sales despite huge traffic as projected by Facebook and being shocked by its "illegal and mala fide acts", the petitioner registered an FIR against Facebook with Delhi Police's Cyber Cell in 2019.
The said complaint was filed on 18th February 2019 under sec. 415, 417, 418 read with 120B of Indian Penal Code 1860 and sec. 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
It was however alleged by the petitioner company that the Cyber Crime Cell did not lodge register the FIR despite the complaint being filed under cognizable offences.
Constitution of SIT in Larger Public Interest
The petitioner soughy constitution of an immediate SIT under the authority of Lalita Kumari judgment to carry out a fair, just and impartial investigation under the umbrella of an FIR. The petitioner also states that "The injury is large and under a well-planned conspiracy, directors, sleeping partners and affiliates etc. deceived the petitioners by fraudulently and dishonestly inducing them to deliver their hard earned money, causing injury to not only mind body and property but also right to life, liberty, dignity and trade guaranteed under Article 19 & 21 and bringing the petitioner to breakdown. This also indicates a larger conspiracy which may have even impacted public money."
Further the petitioner also expressed that this might be the biggest click fraud scam of India and has serious impact on economy thus requires fair-speedy investigation and that the rule of law must be upheld. This must be ensured that guilty is punished in accordance with Law notwithstanding their status. It should be investigated by CBI, ED and SFIO.
“Petitioners don't hope complete investigations if it remains in hands of State Police as real conspirators are powerful corporations with influence.", the plea stated.
Lastly the petition set out following prayers:
- Directions to be issued to Respondent No. 3 to submit its detailed status report before the Hon’ble Court and clearly mention the action taken till date against the proposed accused and to bring on record the entire case file including the documents received from the accused persons if any.
- Issue directions by way of a suitable writ to the Respondent No.1-3 to jointly constitute a Special Investigation Unit (SIT) under the guidance of senior level officials of all concerned and handover the investigation in the captioned complaint to the SIT.
- Issue directions to SIT to lodge the report and investigate the matter.
- Issue directions to Respondent No.1 to set up an Authority specifically dealing with digital frauds being carried out on digital platforms in order to safeguard the rights of the stakeholders and to submit a detailed proposal before the Hon'ble Court.
Pass any such order or further order(s) in favour of the Petitioner, which this Hon'ble Court may deem fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case as well as in the interest of justice.