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Adjudicating Officers, who will be deciding the fate of multi-crore rupees cyber crime cases, have finally been appointed for all Indian States.
Although, the Indian Cyber Law i.e. the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act), came into force on 17th October 2000, the Government had not appointed the Adjudicating Officers or the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal.
This prompted students of the Pune based Asian School of Cyber Laws (ASCL) to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court asking for a speedy appointment of Adjudicating officers.
Following this the Central Government has directed that the IT Secretaries of each state and Union territory should be appointed as adjudicating officers.
The Bombay High Court in its order dated 9th October 2002 has directed the Central Government to announce the appointment of adjudicating officers in the public media to make people aware of the appointments.
The division bench of the Mumbai High Court consisting of Justice A.P. Shah and Justice Ranjana Desai also ordered that the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal be constituted within a reasonable time frame failing which the petitioners would have the remedy of approaching the Court again through a writ petition.
Earlier, cyber crime victims, seeking damages, had no forum to redress their grievances. The issue was compounded by the fact that Civil courts have no jurisdiction over such matters.
Incidentally, Chapter IX, Section 43, of the IT Act provides for penalties upto a crore of rupees for various cyber crimes like unauthorized access to computers, launching virus attacks, committing credit card frauds on the Internet, unauthorised downloading of copyrighted data, time thefts etc.
These cases are to be adjudged by adjudicating officers appointed by the Central government under section 46 of the Act. Appeals from such cases are to be heard by the Presiding officer of the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal that is to be constituted under section 48 of the Act.
ASCL has pioneered education, training and consultancy in Cyber Law, Cyber Crime Investigation and Information Security. ASCL is working closely with various Police Departments, Government bodies and corporates in these fields.
Section 43 of the IT Act provides for compensation upto one crore of rupees in cases involving:
- unauthorised access of a computer,
- unauthorised copying, extracting and downloading of data,
- introduction of viruses, worms, trojans, etc.
- damaging or disrupting a computer or network,
- denying access to a computer,
- commiting financial irregularites by manipulating computer,
- facilitating illegal access to computer.
Under section 46 of the of the IT Act, such claims for compensation will lie to an adjudicating officer appointed by the Central Government. Such adjudicating officers, according to section 46, have to possess relevant technical and legal experience and have to be of the rank of a Director to the Government of India or any other equivalent rank.
The IT Act has also provided for the constitution of an appellate body for those people who may prefer an appeal feeling aggrieved by the order of the Adjudicating officer. The appellate body, known as the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal is to be constituted of one person known as the Presiding Officer as per section 49 of the Act. Appeals from the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal lie to the High Court.
The petitioners in the case were
- Mr. Vishal Kumar (ASCL Student)
- Mr. Rahul Sood (ASCL Student)
- Mr. Pandey Sangeet Rai (ASCL Student)
- Mr. Arvind S. Avahad
- Ms. Nupur Jain (ASCL Student)
- Ms. Karnika Sharma (ASCL Student)
- Adv. Ravi Shekhar Bhardwaj (ASCL Faculty)
- Asian School of Cyber Laws