T.N. Cyber Crime: People should not download loan apps and other cyber frauds

By Fiona Mehta

 

Director General of Police, Amaresh Pujari, who is in charge of the Tamil Nadu Police’s Cyber Crime Wing, issued a warning against downloading loan apps from unreliable websites to prevent falling victim to scammers. He also went into detail on victim hotlines and new trends in online fraud.

People who took out minor loans have experienced harassment and blackmail from those in charge of predatory loan apps.

Whenever such loan apps come to their notice, they take up the matter with the app provider to take it down. This year, they came across 273 loan apps on Google Play Store. After sustained follow-up by the Cyber Crime Wing, Google has taken down 211 apps. Efforts are being made to bring down the remaining 62 apps. The problem, however, is compounded by the fact that people download such loan apps from various websites too. He strongly urges people not to download any app from unverified websites as it can contaminate their mobile phones and lead to loss of money.

Many people have fallen victim to what has come to be called the ‘Boss Scam’. Fraudsters use photos of senior officers in Display Pictures (DPs) on WhatsApp to impersonate and send messages to people working in particular offices, requesting money or asking them to click a link for gift cards. He urges people not to respond to such messages unless it is from known numbers of their bosses or colleagues.

Another scam is ‘Sextortion’. In this scam, the victim receives a video call from an unknown number. Once the person accepts the call and starts talking, the scamster on the other end, typically a woman, starts stripping. Later, screen records of this video call are used to blackmail the victims. People should refrain from accepting video calls from unknown persons/numbers. Many people receive fraudulent messages to pay electricity bill dues or complete KYC verification for their bank account. People should not respond to such messages and verify it with the Electricity Board office or their bank managers.

 

What are the redressal mechanisms for people who fall for such scams?

One of the quickest redressal mechanisms for a common man who loses money to fraudsters is to dial their toll-free helpline number 1930. This number is handled by their trained staff in the Cyber Crime Wing Headquarters. The team will get the necessary details from the victim and initiate freezing of the fraudulent transaction so that money could be returned to the victim by the bank. The earlier the people report the incident to the helpline, the more the chances of them getting back their money.

Complaints can also be lodged on the portal: www.cybercrime.gov.in or through the mobile App ‘Kaval Uthavi’.

People can also approach the Cyber Cell at their nearest police station. Cyber Support Officer (CSO) at the police station will help them in lodging the complaint.

MahaREAT: earnest money can only be held accountable for the alternative claim of reimbursement

By Fiona Mehta

This article examines the matter of Samudra Darshan Co vs. Peter Almeida & Ors (AT006000000053403)

 

Facts of the case: The first two appeals’ appellant, a cooperative society, nominated Respondent No. 3 as developer via redevelopment agreement (RDA) dated 08.07.2005 for developing the property under its occupation, according to the appeals’ brief factual matrix. According to the aforementioned agreements, Respondent No. 3 had the right to sell apartments in the selling component only if the rehabilitation of the members was complete. After receiving the required approvals, Respondent No. 3 started building in 2011 and also started selling apartments in the sale component, which would be built in accordance with agreements with the Society. The claim of the allottees is that they paid a total of Rs. 64.50 lacs for the flat number 1103 in wing “C” of the sale component building, against which a sum of Rs. 6,17,550 was given as an earnest money deposit. To that end, it is asserted that Respondent No. 3 also issued an allocation letter dated 11.06.2011.

With time passing, the Society terminated the RDA through a deed of cancellation signed by the Society and Respondent No. 3 on September 16, 2014, as a result of Respondent No. 3 failing to fulfil the obligations it undertook under the said RDA and due to the project of redevelopment being abandoned. As a result, on 21.10.2014, the Society appointed Respondent No. 7 as the new Developer by signing a development agreement. Subsequently, a public notice dated 30.04.2015 was also published in the newspapers for the general public’s awareness.

The new Developer registered the project under RERA once RERA went into effect in May 2017. Following this, the project’s allottees filed a complaint with MahaRERA asking for instructions to the new developer to assign the flat in the building and further instructions to the ex-developer or the new developer to execute a sale agreement with the allottees in accordance with the allotment letter issued to them by the ex developer on June 11, 2011. Alternately, allottees asked the respondents to reimburse them for their payments, plus interest, and pay them compensation of Rs. 50 lacs.

In the current situation, it appears that Society has no contractual relationship with the allottees under the circumstances, and the transaction is solely and exclusively between the allottees and the former developer. Whether or not the development agreement between the Ex-developer and the Society is cancelled, the facts collected in this case are clearly within the ratio of Vaidehi.

Furthermore, it is noted that the new developer was chosen by the society and has not signed a contract with the former developer. As a result, it cannot be held accountable for keeping promises made to allottees by the former developer, contrary to what the authority incorrectly stated, particularly in para. 19 of the original order and as reiterated in the order under review application. As a result, neither the society nor the new Developer that it chose are required to acknowledge the allottees’ claims as requested in the case.

Order: In light of the aforementioned observations, the Society and new Developer cannot be held accountable to allottees due to the lack of privity of contract, and as a result, allottees are not entitled to the relief claimed in the complaint against the Society or new developer. Since a new Developer has already taken over the project in these circumstances, no flats can be made available to project allottees.

Due to this, the ex-Developer who has received the earnest money from the allottees can only be held accountable for the alternative claim of reimbursement made by the allottees, if any. For the aforementioned reason, it would be acceptable to remand the complaint so that the Authority can decide on the refund amount again and identify the previous Developer’s responsibility for it after speaking with the interested parties.

In the above circumstances, we are of the view that impugned order cannot be sustained and the same deserves to be set aside.

Delhi HC directs ‘Telegram’ to disclose copyright infringers using its platform

By Fiona Mehta

 

In the matter of NEETU SINGH & ANR. v. TELEGRAM FZ LLC & ORS., the Delhi High Court has observed that copyright infringers cannot be permitted to seek shelter under messaging platform Telegram’s policies merely on the ground that its physical server is in Singapore.

Justice Pratibha M Singh added that Indian Courts would be perfectly justified in directing Telegram, which runs its massive operations in India, to adhere to Indian law and orders passed by them for disclosure of relevant information relating to infringers.

The bench further observed that the disclosure of personal data for the purpose of any proceedings, which would include proceedings related to the infringement of copyright, would be a recognized exception to data privacy under the Personal Data Protection Act, 2012 of Singapore.

The Court further added that the Information Technology Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics, 2021 (IT Guidelines) do not, in any manner, obviate the duty of Telegram as a platform to take all effective steps required to protect IP rights, including the rights of copyright owners.

The Court was dealing with a suit filed by one Neetu Singh and K.D. Campus Pvt. Ltd. seeking a permanent injunction restraining infringement of copyright, damages, and other reliefs in respect of unauthorized dissemination of their videos, lecture, books, etc. The suit was filed against Telegram and John Doe (various unknown persons).

Telegram had only opposed the grant of relief to the extent that it cannot share the data relating to the creators or users of the channels, as the said data is stored in its data servers in Singapore and the law of Singapore prohibits such disclosure. Moreover, as per Telegram, it being an intermediary under the IT Act, none of the pre-conditions which permit the intermediary to disclose the identity of the users, as per the IT Guidelines were satisfied.

“In view of the above factual and legal position, in the opinion of this Court, merely because Telegram chooses to locate its server in Singapore, the same cannot result in the Plaintiffs’ – who are copyright owners of course materials – being left completely remediless against the actual infringers, especially in order to claim damages and avail of other legal remedies in accordance with the law. If such an argument is accepted, in the current world where most dissemination happens through online messaging services and platforms, IP violations would go completely unchecked,” the Court said.

The Court thus directed Telegram to disclose the details of the channels or devices used in disseminating the infringing content, mobile numbers, IP addresses, email addresses, etc., used to upload the infringing material and communicate the same, as per the list of channels filed.

The Court added that in case there is any further list of infringing channels, the same be also submitted to Telegram.

Cyber Crime: Don’t share phone numbers at malls

By Fiona Mehta

 

The cybercrime unit of the Kolkata Police has warned people not to give out their phone numbers in public places such as malls or to people they have just met online.

According to the police, disclosing personal information in a public setting only increases our susceptibility to online fraud. They said that providing your phone number at such locations was not required.

Bombay High Court: Don’t blame Alexa, fined a resort

By Fiona Mehta

 

In the matter of Villa Calangute Resort Pvt Ltd v. State of Goa, the Bombay High Court at Goa recently imposed costs of ₹10,000 on a resort which claimed that Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa played loud music in violation of the Noise Pollution Rules, 2002.

The court said that the resort, which was given show cause notices for playing loud music at midnight, could not place the blame for the noise pollution violations on its visitors or Alexa.

“The defence that “Alexa” or a guest at the resort was playing music is innovative, and we are confident that the Authority, which issued the show-cause notice, will address it (to the resort). Primarily, however, we believe that the petitioner cannot place the burden on its visitors or, even worse, Alexa. It will be highly challenging for the authorities to enforce the noise pollution restrictions if such defences are upheld “Justices Mahesh Sonak and RN Laddha’s division bench made the observation.

The Bench further pointed out that the implementation of the Noise Pollution Rules cannot be frustrated by raising such prima facie frivolous defences.

The Court was hearing a plea filed by a resort situated in North Goa challenging show cause notices issued against it by the authorities for playing loud music late into the night. The resort claimed that the show cause notices did not mention the decibel noise levels, which allegedly went beyond the permissible limit.

The Bench noted that the authorities received several complaints against the resort for breaching the Noise Pollution Rules and often playing loud music at midnight. It said that the contention made by the resort would be decided by the authorities when they take up the show cause notices for hearing.

The bench opined, “Unless the petitioner places on record any permissions authorising it to play music at these hours, it cannot be said that the show-cause notices are vague or bereft of any particulars. As it is, monitoring issues of noise pollution is quite difficult. There is a record about several complaints against the petitioner“.

Therefore, the judges said that the petition seems to be misconceived and dismissed it with costs of ₹10,000.

Delhi High Court: restrains rogue websites from streaming Ranbir Kapoor’s Brahmastra movie

By Fiona Mehta

 

In the case of Star India Private Limited v 7Movierulz.tc & Ors, the Delhi High Court has restrained 18 websites from illegally streaming the upcoming Ranbri Kapoor starrer movie Brahmastra after Star India filed a suit for ex-parte ad-interim injunction.

Star India had filed a lawsuit in court, claiming that although it is the film’s producer, copyright violations are being committed when the movies are streamed by shady websites as soon as they are shown in theatres. The film is a copyrighted creation of the plaintiff Star India, which made considerable investments in its creation and marketing, according to Justice Jyoti Singh.
The Court further stated that piracy must be stopped, and dealt with harshly, and those rogue websites should not be allowed to screen for protected content without a court order.

The Court ordered that “Defendants No. 1 to 18 and all others acting for and/or on their behalf are restrained from in any manner hosting, streaming, retransmitting, exhibiting, making available for viewing and downloading, providing access to and/or communicating to the public, displaying, uploading, modifying, publishing, updating and/or sharing on their websites through the internet or any other platform, the film ‘Brahmastra Part One: Shiva’ and contents related thereto, so as to infringe the Plaintiff’s copyright therein, till the next date of hearing”.

Various Domain Name Registrars (DNRs) were also ordered by Justice Singh to block or suspend the domain names of these malicious websites. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) and the Department of Technology (DoT) have also been instructed to issue notifications requesting that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) block access to the websites.

As the film’s producer, Star India approached the High Court with the claim that any third party who interfered with its exclusive rights would be considered to have violated the copyright.
The court was informed that the movie is scheduled for theatrical distribution on September 9 and that it is customary for a movie to initially be released for theatrical exhibition before being made available for watching on various platforms.

However, the rogue websites in order to make illegal gains make infringing copies and make them available for viewing, downloading and communication to the public, almost simultaneously with the theatrical release of the film, the Court was informed.

Star added that in the past, infringing copies of several movies produced/distributed by the plaintiff were communicated to the public and made available for viewing and downloading, on various websites, within hours of the theatrical release.

The Court said that the plaintiff has made a prima facie case for grant of ex-parte injunction and, therefore, passed the directions for blocking of the websites. It also issued a summons on the suit and made it returnable before the joint-registrar on November 29.

CCI: Sony-Zee merger can hurt competition, scrutiny needed.

By Fiona Mehta

 

Zee in a statement said it continues to take all the required legal steps to complete all the necessary approval processes for the proposed merger.

 

Zee Entertainment Enterprises has written to the Competition Commission of India (CCI) in order to get the latter’s permission to merge its operations with Sony Entertainment. The firm is citing the latest TV viewership data which shows that the merged entity would have a lower market share and will not lead to any concentration of power.

A merger between the Indian unit of Japan’s Sony and Zee Entertainment to create a $10 billion TV enterprise will potentially hurt competition by having “unparalleled bargaining power”, the country’s antitrust wa­tchdog found in an initial review, according to an official notice seen by Reuters.

The Competition Commission of India’s (CCI’s) August 3 notice to the two companies stated the watchdog is of the view that a further investigation is merited. Sony and Zee in December decided to merge their television channels, film assets and streaming platforms to create a powerhouse in a key media and entertainment growth market of 1.4 billion people, challenging rivals like Walt Disney Co.

The CCI’s findings will delay regulatory approval of the deal and could force the companies to propose changes to its structure, three Indian lawyers familiar with the process said. If that still fails to satisfy the CCI, it could lead to a prolonged approval and investigation process, they added.

Zee in a statement said it continues to take all the required legal steps to complete all the necessary approval processes for the proposed merger. The CCI and Sony in India did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In its 21-page notice, the CCI said its initial review shows the proposed deal would place the combined entity in a “strong position” with around 92 channels in India, also citing Sony’s global revenue of $86 billion and assets of $211 billion.

“The CCI will examine if the combined entity would reduce competition or if the other competitors could maintain sufficient pressure on the combined entity. If the combined market shares are very high and other competitors are not able to exert sufficient competitive pressure, the CCI may ask parties to give certain remedies (including divestitures) as a condition for approving the transaction. The CCI has asked parties for remedies in the past where the combined market share was as low as 30 per cent,” said Vaibhav Choukse, Partner & Head of Practice, Competition Law at JSA.

Zee’s managing director Punit Goenka said in a media interview in December he sees the relative value of the combined entity as “potentially close to $10 billion” and expected all necessary approvals by October this year.

Supreme Court: Person who avails any banking service is ‘consumer’ under Consumer Protection Act

By Fiona Mehta

 

In the case of Arun Bhatiya vs HDFC Bank and ors, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed that a person who avails any banking service falls within the scope of the definition of ‘consumer’ under the Consumer Protection Act, and can take recourse to legal remedies provided in the Act.
A Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna ruled that the State Commission was wrong in declining to hear the case of a person on merits merely because the dispute involved the father of the person as well.
Facts of the case:
In this case, the complainant and his father had opened a joint FD in HDFC Bank. An amount of 75 Lakhs had been deposited jointly in the name of the complainant and his father for a period of 145 days. The FD amount was credited to the account of the complainant’s father on the request made by the father on 31 May 2016.
In his complaint before the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at Lucknow, the complainant contended that upon the maturity of the FD, both the complainant and his father had jointly issued a direction to the bank for renewing it for a period of ten days and despite this, the amount was credited solely into the account of the father.

The SCDRC held that the dispute was primarily between the complainant and his father on the issue of the FD amount deposited, and therefore only a civil court was competent to deal with such a dispute. The NCDRC dismissed the appeal as withdrawn. Later, the complainant filed a review application stating on affidavit that he had not furnished instructions to his counsel to apply for withdrawal of the appeal. But the same was not entertained.

Decision:

The court noted that the essence of the complaint is that there was a deficiency on the part of the respondent bank in proceeding to credit the proceeds of a joint FD exclusively to the account of his father.
“The SCDRC ought to have determined whether the complaint related to deficiency of service as defined under the 1986 Act. The SCDRC had no justification to relegate the appellant to pursue his claim before a civil court. The appellant did not, in the proceedings before the SCDRC, raise any claim against his father. Therefore, the SCDRC was wrong in deducing that there was a dispute between the appellant and his father. Assuming that there was a dispute between the appellant and his father, that was not the subject matter of the consumer complaint. The complaint that there was a deficiency of service was against the bank.”, it added.

Cyber Fraud: Bengaluru woman tries to pay cancellation charges for cab ride, loses nearly ₹1 Lakh.

By Fiona Mehta

 

Trying to pay the charges for a cancelled cab ride proved costly for a 34-year-old homemaker after she lost ₹94,367 in cyber fraud.

 

The victim, Naziya G. Naik, from Agrahara Dasarahalli, had booked a cab online to visit her relatives, and later cancelled the trip. The driver asked her to pay the cancellation charges and she checked customer care online and called the executive on the number mentioned.

The customer care executive offered to help her and sent her a link to download Anydesk [an application to provide remote access and control of a phone or computer] and to scan her debit card.

Ms. Naik followed the instructions and as soon as she scanned her debit card, a total of ₹94,367 was deducted. She tried to call the number but there was no response. Realizing she was cheated, the victim approached the West Division cyber crime police and filed a complaint.

The police are now trying to track down the accused through online transactions.

How to prevent Cyber Frauds like this?
1. Do not share your bank details with anyone.
2. Do not share your passwords or any such sensative data with anyone.
3. Do not use the app AnyDesk with anyone you do not know/trust.
4. Take precautions while making online transactions.

Supreme Court order: NCLT cannot coerce allottees into settlements

By Fiona Mehta

 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s recent decision in E. S. Krishnamurthy & Others v. Bharath Hi Tech Builders Pvt. Ltd. defined and limited the jurisdiction of the National Company Law Tribunal (“NCLT”) and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (“NCLAT”) as well as the courses of action available to these authorities under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (“IBC”).

 

Facts of the case: A agreement was made for the M/s Bharath Hi Tech Builders Pvt. Ltd. (Respondent) to raise money for the development of some agricultural property. The Respondent was required to transmit and register the plots to the allottees within the specified timeframe after a Facility Agent of the Respondent was designated to market the plots to potential buyers (Allottees) in exchange for the payment of a lump sum price.

The Respondent took out a term loan after failing to gather the necessary funds. The Respondent also asked the allottees for extensions on when they needed to transmit the plot, promising to pay back the full amount plus interest if they didn’t succeed. The Respondent requested additional extensions and provided additional assurances in response to its subsequent inability to fulfil its responsibilities.

The Respondent’s failure to make reparation, however, prompted the Appellants to file a petition before the NCLT, Bengaluru Bench under Section 7 of the IBC. The NCLT dismissed the petition on the grounds that the Respondent was making sincere attempts to seek a settlement, had already made settlements with some of the petitioners, and was still in the process of obtaining settlements with more petitioners. It gave the Respondent a deadline by which to reach a settlement with the additional claimants.

This NCLT order was appealed to the NCLAT, which dismissed the appeal on the grounds that the NCLT had already dismissed the petition at the pre-admission stage because a settlement process was in progress and the rights of all the appellants were protected because the NCLT had set a deadline for settlement and granted leave to appeal to the NCLT if the claims were not resolved.

Aggrieved by this order of the NCLAT, the Appellants filed a Civil Appeal before the Supreme Court under Section 62 of the IBC.

Court findings: When ruling that the NCLT had violated Section 7(5) of the IBC by acting outside of its authority, the Court noted that the NCLT has only two options when filing a petition under Section 7. It must accept the application in accordance with Section 7(5)’s Clause (a) or reject it in accordance with Clause (b). The Act does not give the NCLT any other options.

The NCLT may admit the application when:

  1. A default has occurred;
  2. The application under Section 7(2) is complete; and
  3. No disciplinary proceeding is pending against the proposed resolution professional.

In the event that any of the above conditions are not met, the NCLT may reject the application.

The Supreme Court has limited the NCLT’s authority at that stage and its possibilities by strictly interpreting Section 7 to limit the NCLT’s jurisdiction there. This has increased predictability, certainty, and clarity by limiting the NCLT’s options and setting boundaries on its power.

The Supreme Court correctly viewed that the NCLT may only support settlements in a period when they are fashionable and preferred to litigation. Settlements may be a quick and effective way to resolve disputes, but they may also aggravate one or more parties. As a result, they cannot be forced onto a party in order to achieve the goal of the corporate debtor’s rehabilitation in a timely manner.

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