“We have some very remarkably intelligent police officers in the country but if you look at the police force as a whole, you realise that the force is inherently lacking in its tools, in its orientation, in its awareness and in its ability to investigate, prosecute, crack and prove cyber crime,” says Pavan Duggal, Advocate, Supreme Court, in an interview with egov magazine
India is one of the few countries that has constituted the Information Technology (IT) Act. What are the implications of this Act for e-Governance in general and curbing the cyber crimes in specific?
The Information Technology Act, 2000 has got maximum utility and relevance for any person or any legal entity that is involved in the use of computers, computer systems or computer networks or anyone who uses data or information in electronic form. This is so because this is the only legislation has granted legality and legal enforceability to the electronic contract. This is also the only legislation where a legal framework has been provided for promoting e-Governance in the country. The section 4 of the IT Act talks about the legality of the electronic format, provided that you comply with certain requirements. We also have various provisions by means of which the facilitation and use of electronic format in the government agencies and for official purposes has been statutorily notified. This law, which came into effect from 17th October, 2000, provided a launching pad on the basis of which e-Governance could grow and has indeed grown in India.
As far as the question of cyber crime is concerned, the law is of particular relevance, primarily because under the IT Act, certain activities have been classified as cyber crimes. These are made punishable with imprisonment, which could extend from 3 years to 10 years and a fine of INR 100,0000 or more. Some of the cases that are covered include hacking, damage to computer source code, publishing obscene electronic information, breach of protection system, breach of privacy and confidentiality. However, some of the activities have been covered, a very large chunk of cyber crimes are still not covered under the IT Act. Although cyber crimes are covered in the IT Act, a lot of other crimes are still not covered. For instance, social networking crimes, cyber terrorism, cyber nuisance, are effectively still not brought within the ambit of either the IT Act or the proposed amendments. Things like phishing and identity thefts are not directly covered under the IT Act or under the proposed amendments either. So, I think it is high time that the government has a more comprehensive look, and tries to cover as much as it can, under the IT Act. Some of these are now proposed to be covered by the virtue of the proposed amendments in the IT Bill 2006, which was introduced by the Indian Parliament in December 2006.
In lieu of the recent technological developments, what are the amendments that are required under the IT Act?
The IT Act, when it began in the year 2000, was primarily a law meant for promoting e-Commerce. It was never meant to be a law for regulating cyber crimes, however, when the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology was examining it, in the year 2000, the