India is fastest developing economy in world and under vibrant leadership of Hon.PM Narendra Modiji it is set to instigate many projects through e-governance activities. It will also be a booster to various e-commerce activities in India. Mission Digital India with its expected and anticipated targets will make many more citizens use online services and yield its benefits.
With more and more focus on digitalisation of activities and era of Internet of Things, citizens are left with no option but to become digital knowledgeable. While many e-commerce activities are getting impetus like online shopping, online ticket booking, online complaint reporting mechanisms etc., the focus of government is bound to promote growth of more and more digitalisation.
The digitalisation of services provides various benefits like transparency, efficiency and jurisdiction and hence are becoming more and more attractive.
But there is other side of this digitalisation which is neither noticed yet nor thought for. This other side is allied to disputes in e-commerce activities. Due to growth of e-commerce activities there are various issues which need to be answered but till date very meager efforts are put into resolving them.
Indeed I am highlighting Internet Frauds and Cyber crimes and its reporting mechanism. When in country like India which has larger geographical territory among many countries in world, it’s very convenient for cyber criminals to commit crimes from far off location even within country and with petty amount involved and get away with it. The reason behind is for meager amount local police won’t register crime or owing to location of actual happening of incident the police will display their inability to register crimes due to jurisdiction issue.
And even if some victims are able to register the offenses then there is another stumbling block known as judiciary. When in a country like India where normal judiciary is neglected less should be said about Cyber Judicial process. In Supreme Courts and High Courts almost 50 percent vacancies exists in posts of Judges till date and hence cases are piling up by every passing day. It’s better not to say anything about lower courts vacancies and case pending ratio.
But in this era of digitalisation many people believe that cyber adjudication must be different from traditional judicial process and there must be faster relief to the victims. But this can be said as mere wishful thinking and nothing else. If we strictly go by Information Technology Act, a special act passed by Indian Parliament to regularise e-commerce activities in India, it certainly provides for time bound adjudication. The desired duration for completion of adjudication is specified as Six months and which is very welcome one.
But if we scrutinize reality it’s totally catastrophic. For example the apex body for cyber adjudication known as Cyber Appellate Tribunal is without any head and hence almost defunct since last 4-5 years. There are about 67 appeals pending from across India since 2011 and no real efforts seems to be taken to provide relief to these 67 applicants. It is said that justice delayed is justice denied but I think time has come to redefine the word “Delay”. In this digitalised word every second is significant because by every passing second I P Address can change so can location of criminal and so also the cyber crime victim. So in this digitalisation era there is magnanimous importance to time bound activities and hence Timing is very crucial in Cyber Adjudication Matters also.
Even if we observe the lower level of Cyber Adjudication, which is termed as Adjudicator and Information Technology Secretary of each state, is designated as Adjudicating Officer, there is even more pathetic situation. Most of the I T Secretaries even today have not entertained a single case till date i.e. even after passage of 15 years, since when they were supposed to act in such capacity.
Even if we consider one of the most progressive states i.e. Maharashtra, there have been no significant hearings since last one year. It’s better not to comment about performance of rest of the Adjudicating Officers in other Indian States.
So in this situation where police are unenthusiastic to register cyber crime complaints and cyber judiciary is practically non- functional, what the ordinary citizen should do if he is cyber crime victim?
The growth in cyber crimes is imminent as more and more financial transactions are carried on using online medium and also confirmed by recent NCRB statistics.
The present cyber judicial situation needs to be revamped drastically. Cyber Judiciary should be seen as priority sector so that cyber criminals can be penalized and deterred and which can be one of the factors to bring down cyber crimes. If we go by financial frauds reported through credit or debit cards or through dubious online portals its need of hour to reinforce our Cyber Judiciary regime.
Hope that some wisdom will prevail and steps will be taken in this direction.
Advocate Mahendra Limaye
Cyber Legal Consultant