The first and only cyber appellate tribunal in the country has been lying defunct for the last three years. The tribunal has not adjudicated a single case since June 30, 2011 when the previous chairperson Justice Rajesh Tandon retired.
Each case that comes to the tribunal has been adjourned on the ground that there is non-availability of the chairperson and the member (judicial) to pass judicial orders.
When the tribunal was setup in October 2006, it was seen as a specialised forum to redress cyber frauds.
It was conceived 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.
However, the tribunal has been vested with the same powers as a civil court, the cases requiring punishment instead of financial penalty are transferred to the magistrate concerned. But, this does not explain the dismal number of cases filed at the tribunal. As of today, there are only 32 cases pending at the tribunal. Four cases were admitted in 2012, ten last year, and eight in 2014.
A survey conducted recently by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), projected that the Internet user base in the country is to touch 243 million by June 2014. This growth of Internet users has also led to a substantial growth in other digital industries such as e-commerce. This has led to a spurt in cyber frauds cases.
As per latest data available with the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), a total of 2876 cases were registered under the Information Technology Act in 2012, a sharp increase from 1791 in 2011.
But not all cyber fraud cases are reported.
This seems to be true for not only individuals but also for companies.
There is very little knowledge on the different kinds of cyber crimes, the laws governing them, and the redressal forums.
And the national appellate tribunal remaining non-functional for three years has not helped either, as it has forced cyber fraud victims to approach the high courts, which are already overburdened with case pendency, for remedy.
Central government counsel Sumeet Pushkarna said the selection of the chairperson and members of the tribunal is made by the Centre in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. He had informed the Delhi HC on May 29 that it will take eight weeks to appoint the chairperson.