The investigators thought they had achieved a major breakthrough when they managed to trace the IP address of the email that was sent out by the terror outfit Indian Mujahideen ahead of the Ahmedabad serial blasts to a building in Sanpada.
The flat belongs to one Abhishek Sharma who had leased it out to two US nationals, Kenneth Haywood and Kens White. After hours of interrogation, the officers concluded that the Americans had nothing to do with the email and that members of Indian Mujahideen sent it after hacking into their computer.
Indian Mujahideen had used a cyber cafe in Ghaziabad to send an email claiming responsibility for the serial blasts that rocked Jaipur in May this year. In November last year, terrorists had used a cyber cafe in Delhi to send an email warning of an attack on lawyers minutes before bombs went off in court premises in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad.
There are growing instances of terrorists using cyber cafes to plan and co-ordinate terror strikes. The fact that most cyber cafe owners continue to turn a blind eye to a police directive that had made it mandatory for all to produce a photo identification proof before being allowed to use the cyber cafe is not helping either.
In the absence of any monitoring, cyber cafes are being used by unscrupulous elements as a means to execute their dastardly acts. The law also requires cyber cafe owners to maintain a detailed record of all customers, including name, address, contact number, age, gender, signing in and signing out timings, as well as the number of computers used.
However, this is rarely put into practice. "This is because customers take offence when asked to show identity cards," said a cyber cafe owner on the condition of anonymity. "Cyber cafes that follow these rules have lost many customers."
"Cyber cafe owners have to maintain records but very few do so," said a senior police officer. "The fact that the police do not carry out regular checks encourages cafe owners to continue flouting the norms. They only spring into action and question the cafe owners once a crime is committed," he said.
SIES College student Sudheer Yadav said that he frequently visits cyber cafes but has never been asked to show his identification proof. "The police should penalise cafe owners who allow people to access the internet without asking them to produce their id cards."
Ankur Dasgupta, a Nerul-based computer professional disagreed. "I have been asked to show my photo identification proof every time I have used a cyber cafe. They have become more stringent these days following the red alert in the city."
DCP (Crime) Pravin Pawar, who also handles the cyber cell of Mumbai police, said, "We have been telling cyber cafe owners to maintain records as it will help them in case a terminal belonging to their cafe is used to commit a crime. Those who fail to do so will be taken to task."