Karnataka High Court recently observed that an action for dereliction of duty or other proceedings can be initiated against investigation officers if they are found to have leaked the information or data to any third party.
The court announced that it is the responsibility of the officers to protect the information or data retrieved from electronic gadgets and violating this responsibility would lead to a legal action against them.
The court expressed that investigating officers were to be held accountable to protect the privacy as the retrieved data may include personal information which may or may not be needed and as there could not be strict compartmentalisation of data stored as personal or not personal in those gadgets.
However, the court said that use of data retrieved from electronic gadgets protected by passwords would not extend to violation of right to privacy of a person in criminal case as access to such data by the police would come within the exceptions given in Justice Puttaswamy’s case on right to privacy.
On what the investigating agency could do if accused persons refused to disclose passwords to access gadgets and information, the court said the investigating agency would be at liberty to engage a specialised agency to hack the passwords, pass code or biometric, and the accused could not contest the methodology used by the investigating agency to access information in the gadgets or emails.
Also, the court said that the investigating agency was at liberty to block access to email accounts and gadgets by changing the passwords to ensure no one else apart from designated officers would have access to them.
The Court also observed that on filing an application by the investigating agency, it could allow hacking into the gadgets and email accounts in cases where the manufacturers of gadgets or service providers were not cooperating.