Tinder match gone wrong: Karnataka HC refuses to quash cheating case against woman who posed as therapist on dating app

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The Karnataka High Court recently refused to quash a cheating case filed against a woman who took sums of money from a man she met on dating app Tinder while representing herself as a wellness therapist.

Justice M Nagaprasanna noted that the offence of cheating was clearly made out against the woman and, therefore, held that the case had to go to trial.

“The chats would reveal that the petitioner had initially represented that she is a wellness therapist and her team would take care of the complainant. Therefore, without having any team or any qualification whatsoever, it was the web page prima facie created to lure the complainant and the like. It is therefore, the offence of cheating comes clearly made out against the petitioner.”

Justice M Nagaprasanna
Pertinently, the Court called upon the government to come up with measures to regulate the growth of “pseudo-therapists” on social media who are not bound by any ethics.

“It is in public domain that there are huge mushrooming of so called therapies and therapists on social media i.e., Instagram, twitter or Facebook as the case would be, wherein therapists pose themselves to be in the field of any therapy. It is also in public domain that they are all pseudo-therapists who are “Instagram influencers”.

The present case concerns psychosomatic therapy or the wellness therapy. Therapists of the kind, are many in number on social media, in reality, they are not bound by any ethics or not regulated by any norms. Cases of this nature have begun to emerge in large proportions where people wanting to get some therapy fall prey to such pseudo-therapists. Therefore, it is time that the Government comes up with some regulatory measure to check the growth of such therapists.”

The petitioner-woman and the complainant-man had met each other on Tinder. One day, when the man informed the woman that he was stressed, she told him about her Instagram page on which she claimed to be a wellness therapist, promoting general well-being of mind, body and soul. Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, the man took classes of wellness therapy on Instagram, for which he paid the woman around ₹3.15 lakh.

Things took a turn for the worse when the man insisted on meeting the woman in person. As per the prosecution case, when she refused to do so, he sent her lewd messages and pornographic content, prompting her to block him on social media.

Thereafter, on finding that the woman had 15 different social media profiles offering similar services, the man filed a complaint with the police.

After investigation, the police filed a chargesheet against the woman for the offence of cheating under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code and various sections of the Information and Technology (IT) Act. Aggrieved by the same, she moved the High Court seeking to quash the proceedings.

Before the High Court, counsel for the woman submitted that the man had himself approached her for treatment, and only after being satisfied with the service, paid her the fee. It is only because the woman did not yield to the lewd requests of the man that he filed the complaint, it was argued.

It was further contended that the complainant had signed the consent form and, thus was bound by the contract with the woman.

On the other hand, counsel for the complainant argued that the contention that man approached the woman was totally wrong, as the first message came from the woman, who posed as ‘Rishta’, which was not her real name.

He further alleged that the woman represented that she was a wellness therapist and lured the man into treatment, ultimately cheating him of over ₹3 lakh.

The Court noted that the mere fact of the man signing the consent form does not mean that the petitioner can escape the clutches of law.

“There is no document or rather is an admitted fact that the petitioner has no qualification to be in the field of any kind of wellness therapy as projected. It is her own generated web page, without any qualification. Therefore it is a case where the petitioner without any substance or qualification lured the customers into the web of wellness therapy through the web page,” the order stated.

Given that the woman had several web pages with different names, and that she did not reveal her real name to the man while conducting the therapy classes, the Court said that it was necessary for a trial to take place for the woman to come out clean.

On a separate note, the Court acknowledged the fact that a different offence was registered against the complainant for sending lewd messages, and that the same was pending adjudication.

Advocate Aman Correa represented the petitioner woman while Advocate Diraviam Dinesh represented the complainant. Advocate KS Abhijita appeared for the State.

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