Though the Union home ministry recently identified around 100 web sites allegedly used by Pakistani nationals to upload morphed images of violence in Assam with the aim to incite communal hatred at a rally in Azad Maidan on August 11, all it could to do was get them blocked.
There is little hope of tracking down and bringing those culpable to book, as has been the case when cybercrimes are committed from outside the country.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Maharashtra tops the list of cybercrimes committed by foreign nationals and groups, with 37 offences registered last year. Madhya Pradesh comes a distant second, with 16 such offences.
An officer from the cyber police station at Bandra-Kurla Complex said: “We have to be content with ensuring the material on the page or the entire page is blocked. Getting to the perpetrators is a long and cumbersome process,” he said.
Even when government websites have been hacked, including that of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the perpetrators have managed to elude Indian agencies.
Joint commissioner of police (crime) Himanshu Roy agreed several issues arise when the web server is located outside the country.
“We have to follow the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the two countries, which defines the procedure to be followed to enforce criminal laws.”
To take action in such cases, the investigating agency needs the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computer from where the content has been posted. For this, the police require the help of the foreign country.
If it is not on good terms with India, the process is stalled at this stage itself, as has been the case with the videos put up before the Azad Maidan violence, an officer said.
He said even when the two countries are on good terms, the police would have to send a Letter Rogatory (LR) — a communiqué from a local court to another in a foreign country seeking assistance.
“Sending the LR is a circuitous process as it involves several agencies,” said Roy.
Considering that internet offence is a ‘borderless crime’ where the chances of an accused operating from foreign land are high, an officer said, “We need an an international cybercrime law. At present, each country has its own — India has the Information Technology Act — but there is no universal law to ensure the process works faster and the long-drawn procedure is avioded.”
Cyber expert Vijay Mukhi said that it would be difficult to make such a law — pornography in one country may not be in another. “It it would be difficult to define what constitutes a crime, unless it’s financial in nature,” he said.