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Sunday, October 18, 2009

TOI,Pune ( 19/10/09)-Net is lawyers’ hunting ground

Watch What You Post On Social Networking Sites. It Can Be Used Against You As Evidence In Court
Shibu Thomas I TNN

Mumbai: Most of the over 20 million users of social networking sites in India do not hesitate before putting hourly status updates or photographs from their most recent holiday online. This brazenness is what lawyers these days hope for when they trawl the internet for damaging details on a person.
“Such material can be used as prima facie material in court, to corroborate other evidence when a spouse claims cruelty or to prove other allegations,’’ said family court lawyer Mridula Kadam.
Advocates who have profiles on the likes of Facebook and Orkut to keep in touch with family, friends and colleagues, are realising the use that technology can be put to. In the pre-Facebook era, the most common method of gathering personal information about an opponent was to engage the services of a private detective. This would entail months and sometimes years of persistence—for that one damaging photograph that would swing the case in their favour. These days, such information is a click away. The result? Naughty photographs and profile details are finding their way into court documents. These, say lawyers, provide rich fodder, especially in matrimonial disputes.
When advocate Mukesh Vashi, counsel for Bandra resident Arbaaz, logged on to Facebook to look for evidence against his client’s former Australian wife Meryl, he could not believe the amount of personal information that some people put online. For instance, they found that Meryl had uploaded some very suggestive pictures with her girlfriends.
“It can be argued that this is someone’s personal life, but if you place such information on a public forum like Facebook, one should be prepared for the consequences,’’ said Vashi. “The material that we found online helped us to show the court the contrast between Meryl’s wild lifestyle and Arbaaz’s traditional family ties. We were able to argue before the court that the couple’s son would have a more secure and safe upbringing in Arbaaz’s joint family,’’ added Vashi.
According to e-security expert Vijay Mukhi, people forget that social networking sites are essentially public spaces. “Today, human resource managers check Facebook profiles before deciding to hire a person. Information on such sites is also used to fix matrimonial alliances, so it is not surprising that lawyers are checking online profiles,’’ said Mukhi.
The lawyers on the opposite side can always argue that the photographs are fake or morphed, but the onus would be on them to prove it. “People put too much information online without realising that it can be damaging. A harmless photograph uploaded online or an innocuous status message can come back to haunt you in 10 years,’’ he added. Mukhi’s advice to tweeters and users of social networking sites: “Be careful and think of the consequences before uploading anything online.’’
At Your Own Risque
Australian national Meryl (26) did not bat an eyelid before putting up some risque photographs after a night out drinking with her girlfriends. Months later, her former husband, Bandra resident Arbaaz, used those photographs as evidence to substantiate his claim during a custody battle for his son in court that Meryl was not a good mother. The evidence was used in court, said the lawyer
California resident Ritesh Karnik (36) uploaded photographs of a holiday in Hawaii on a social networking site. Years later, those very photographs were used by his wife Naina (32) to back her claim that he had forced her to wear “skimpy clothes’’ (Names of couples have been changed to protect their identities)

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