Loknath Behera, IPS his year marks the 20th year of the Information Technology Act. Also, it marks 20 years of incorporation of digital evidence in the Indian Evidence Act as a tangible object involved, like a weapon used, document produced, or visible injury sustained that is related to a criminal or civil incident.
Ever since its introduction in the year 2000 and, particularly after its subsequent amendment in 2008, the IT Act has been extremely useful for proving or challenging many criminal cases in a scientific manner. Moreover, as evident in many judgments, the provisions of this Act have helped the adjudicators to see the fact in such a reliable and scientifically accepted manner that they did not have to blindly depend on oral evidence alone. In short, the various legal steps taken as part of the Act have contributed to legalizing and putting to use evidential data and information based on computer and communication engineering/technology with the ultimate objective of reducing dependence on oral evidence.
There is a general belief that this Act was formulated with the objective of booking cybercriminals. However, it has been helpful in registering crimes which are not at all related to Information Technology as well as not committed using any cyber gadget. This is because, provisions of the Act help to book ordinary criminals too who conduct traditional crimes (or non-cyber crimes) and who often leave digital evidence, intentionally or unintentionally.
Ironically, the Act even helped investigators to establish criminality when culprits intentionally tried to disassociate themselves from the act (or even unintentionally kept their cyber gadgets like mobile phones away). In this regard, one of the success stories of Kerala Police has been their use of the provisions of this Act (along with provisions of IPC etc.) to establish the Perumbavoor rape-cum-murder case in which the accused had stopped using his mobile phone long before conducting the crime and had even changed his handset twice and SIM once after the criminal act and had travelled thousands of kilometres before he was traced by handling massive 84 lakhs of related telecom data. This success story has appeared in the American Journal of Digital Forensics, Security and Law as a research paper of Dr P Vinod Bhattathiripad and thus, gained worldwide attention.
I recently saw anti-India propaganda, anti-national write-ups on social media. People behind those think that they will not be caught. Needless to say, the modern Indian society does not seem to have become fully aware of the amazing potential of this two decades-old Act. As a consequence, some immature cyber users continue to leave digital materials in various social media platforms and many of these digital “footprints” would eventually become evidence of crimes not just in India but also in other countries.
None of these necessarily mean that the existing Indian Information Act is complete and comprehensive. It requires updates in line with modern developments in the Information Technology and also in line with the modern societal requirements. And, it is the duty of police experts, forensic experts, law experts, criminologists, sociologists, psychologists and educators to suggest updates to make it better. Let this be my New Year message to all the experts. The Kerala Police wish you a very happy, prosperous and peaceful 2020!! (The author is Director General of Police and the State Police Chief.)