Friday, May 30, 2008

Cops, digital clues and cultural bias

A news report by CNN-IBN raises the issue of whether the police force in India are actually competent enough to evaluate electronic evidence and its significance to a crime.

The report speculates that policing does not take into account new cultural tastes and behaviour (influenced by the global technological age) and goes so far as to make an allegation that the police may be weighing the evidence according to their personal moral values (read traditionally acquired).

Take for instance, traditionally, Indian unmarried women (and even married women) did not and still do not (openly) maintain "relationships" with men they are not normally associated with in the course of their personal lives. What happens in the case where a girl has ten male friends seeking friendship or partners in her 'Friends List' in her social networking profile? Or has emails from random male members of the social networking community in her Inbox?

Or what happens when the police discover in their course of their investigations that a suspect belong to a homosexual community? (Same sex relations are legally still a crime and punishable as an unnatural offence under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code with imprisonment and a fine (though attempts are being made to get section 377 to be “read down” to exclude adult consensual sex from within its purview and though the Law Commission in 2001 recommended its repeal, backed by the Union ministry of family and child welfare in 2006).

It is a matter of “wait and watch,” to see how this will pan out.

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