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Get smart, email with care

india Updated: Jan 29, 2007 14:28 IST

All those who flirt on e-mail, send confidential company information, or send hate mail about their bosses from anonymous IDs, stop right there.

The humble e-mail is bouncing back. In the seven years after the country passed its information technology law that made e-mails legal documents, there has been almost no awareness and compliance - and few seemed to care.

But that is all changing, with e-mails at the heart of a series of new Indian lawsuits. "People are extremely flippant and casual. People do not realise that it can have serious legal repercussions," said Pavan Duggal, an expert on internet-related laws.

The costs are heavy. Under Indian laws, offenders can be imprisoned for a maximum of 10 years and may have to pay a penalty of up to Rs 1 crore.

Employees of Integrix, a networking company, recently received an e-mail, purportedly from one of its directors, promising help to pass a crucial certification examination without sitting for it --"for a consideration". The e-mail was traced back to an Internet Protocol (IP) address that provides the exact location of a computer. Bharti, the service producer, released the IP address on a court's instructions -- showing that the e-mail had come from a former company director, sacked for alleged financial

He is now being prosecuted after the e-mail was admitted as evidence. The case also set a new precedent — the Delhi High Court allowed Integrix attorney Duggal to sue an anonymous person identified only by his IP address, before his identity was revealed.

But Indian laws require a complex set of requirements to prove that e-mails have not been tampered with. Until now, "it was driven by corporate governance, not law of the land," said Manoj Chugh, South Asia chief of the US-based EMC, whose company helps archive e-mails in keeping with Indian laws. Companies are swiftly realising the need to archive mails -- EMC's customer base grew from 350 to 500, between May and December last year, Chugh said.