For more than five years now, the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CyAT) has been lying defunct in the absence of a chairperson. This is alarming for a country with 342.65 million Internet subscribers( as of March, this year). Add to this the fact that the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) reported 11,592 cyber crime cases in 2015, a 20.5 per cent increase from 9,622 cases in the preceding year.
“This is causing hardship to the litigants,” said advocate Yugandhara Pawar Jha who is currently fighting a case arising out of a cyber crime in at least two different high courts.
She said that her client had got a favourable order from the adjudicating officer, Mumbai under the Information Technology Act in a cyber fraud case. However, as the CyAT has not been constituted, the other parties have approached different high courts.
“Our client, despite having a favourable order, cannot get the benefit of such an order and, in fact, is forced to run from pillar to post to protect his interests before the various high courts,” Jha said. She added that this multiplicity of litigation further burdens the high courts and in the process the litigants suffer due to delayed justice.
When the tribunal, vested with the powers of a civil court, was setup in October 2006, it was seen as a specialised forum to redress cyber frauds.
It was to adjudicate cases of hacking, sending offensive or false messages, receiving stolen computer resource, identity theft, violation of privacy, domain name disputes and other cyber fraud cases.
But, it has not heard 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 of non-availability of the chairperson.
As of today, there are only 68 cases pending at the tribunal. Three cases were admitted this year, 34 last year and eight in 2014.
The 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.
There is very little knowledge about different kinds of cyber crimes, the laws governing them, and the redressal forums. And the CyAT remaining non-functional for over half-decade has not helped either.
Last month, responding to question raised by Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar on the vacancy of CyAT chairperson, the minister for state for electronic and information technology PP Chaudhary said that “continuous effort has been made” to fill up the post.
The minister, however, did not give a time frame for completing the process.