NEW DELHI: Despite rampant rise in cyber crimes across the country, India’s only Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT) has been headless for over three years, resulting in increasing pendency of cyber crime cases. The delay by the government in appointing CAT Chairman has forced litigants to approach other higher courts which are already struggling with their own backlog of cases.
The tribunal was created to adjudicate cyber crimes and disputes such as hacking, sending of offensive or false messages, receiving stolen computer resource, identity theft, cheating by personation, violation of privacy, domain name disputes and other cyber fraud cases as well as to decide on the compensation of such crimes. In the absence of a chairperson, the 12-member staff at CAT is forced to adjourn cases.
CAT was set up in 2009 by the Centre following huge number of complaints reaching local courts that pertained to Internet fraud. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 2,876 cyber-crime cases were registered under IT Act in 2012 as against 1,791 cases (2011) leading to a rise of 60.6% cases.
Though the government appointed Justice S K Krishnan of Madras High Court as a member in 2011, his term got over in 2012. As per the Information Technology Act, a member currently has no power to pass orders or adjudicate, leaving the tribunal listless all these days.
“CAT has passed no order since the previous chairperson Justice Rajesh Tandon retired in 2011,” said an official of the tribunal.
CAT was established under the IT Act and under the aegis of Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA). The tribunal has been vested with the same powers as a civil court.
Apart from criminal cases to be filed before a police cyber cell, an e-fraud victim can also approach an officer appointed by the state as an adjudicating officer with claims for compensation. The officer with a fair knowledge of cyber law, such as the state IT secretary, has powers to impose a penalty on those who have contravened the Act.
An appeal can be filed before a cyber appellate authority against an adjudicating officer’s order. The appellate authority's decision will then be binding and final.
The idea behind setting of this tribunal was to hear cases relating to objectionable content against Internet giants, such as Google and Facebook, which were filed in courts that had little or no experience in delivering justice in cyber crimes.
An CAT official said, “There is an urgent need for courts dealing with specialized crimes so that pendency of cases can be reduced in the trial courts.” He cited the case of a Delhi court where the judge passed summons against 21 websites for objectionable online content, including against those that were not social networks like Microsoft and Yahoo. The summons were later quashed.