November 1, 2020

Cyber Contraventions: To what extent the IT Act, 2000 deals with it?

The introduction of the internet and technology has brought some surprising yet tremendous changes in our lives. People all over the world are using the computers to create, transmit and store information in the electronic form instead of the traditional papers and documents. There are many advantages to store information in electronic form. It is cheaper, easier to store, and easier to retrieve. With great advantages, comes disadvantages. It has been misused perpetually by many people in order to gain for themselves or to harm others. This high and fast spread of technology and internet in the world has developed a need for a law for protection against many crimes and the increased offenses. To keep up the pace with the changing generation, the Indian parliament had passed a law called – Information Technology Act, 2000. The idea of formulation of the IT Act 2000 has been conceptualized on the United Nations Commissions on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model law.[1]

The Government of India enacted the Information Technology Act, 2000 with the objective of providing legal recognition and protection for transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange. This was an alternative to paper-based methods of communication, storage of information and facilitation of electronic filing of documents with the Government agencies.

Cyber Crime

Cyber crime or contravention is a generic term that refers to all criminal activities that is either done using the medium of computers, or the internet or the worldwide web. It involves any crime that involves a computer and a network.[2] The computer could have been the target or it could be just a medium for commission of an offence.[3] Internet crime is criminal exploitation of the Internet.[4]

The Indian Law has not any definition to the term ‘cybercrime’. The Indian Penal Code also hasn’t used the term ‘cybercrime’ even after its amendment by the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008. But “Cyber Security” is defined under Section (2) (b) of the IT Act, 2000.[5]

Cyber Crime is also not defined officially in the IT Act or in any other legislation. Cyber Offense has been dealt elaborately in various acts and there are appropriate provisions for punishments for each. Therefore, the concept of cyber offence or crime is just a “blend of crime and computer”.

Offenses under the IT Act, 2000

1. Tampering with computer source documents

Section 65 of this Act provides that if anyone knowingly or intentionally conceals, destroys or alters any computer source code used for a computer, computer Programme, computer system or computer network, maintained by law for the being time in force, then they shall be punished with imprisonment up to three year, or with fine which may extend up to two lakh rupees, or with both.[6]

The main objective of this section is to protect the “intellectual property” invested in the computer. It is an effort to protect the computer source documents (codes) beyond the availability under the Copyright Law.

Syed Asifuddin Case[7]

In this case, there was a company called Tata Indicom. Some employees of this company were arrested for manipulation of the electronic 32- bit number (ESN) programmed into cell phones. This theft was exclusively franchised to Reliance Infocom. It was held by the Court held that tampering with source code invokes Section 65 of the Information Technology Act.

Parliament Attack Case[8]

In this case, some terrorists attacked The Parliament House of India on 13 December 2001. The Digital evidence played a vital role during their prosecution in this case. The accused argued that the electronics evidence can be easily manipulated and hence, should not be relied.

The Court held that any challenge to the accuracy of computer evidence should be established by the challenger. Mere theoretical and generic doubts cannot be casted on the evidence’s authenticity.

2. Hacking with the computer system

Section 66 of this Act[9] says that-

(1) If any person with an intent to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person tries to destroy or delete or alters any information residing in a computer resource or reduce its value or utility or affect it injuriously by any means, commits hacking.

(2) For the offence of hacking, one shall be punished with imprisonment up to three years, or with fine up to two lakh rupees, or with both.

R v. Whiteley[10]

In this particular case, the accused somehow managed to gain unauthorized access to the Joint Academic Network (JANET). He deleted some files and changed the passwords to deny access to the authorized users.
The objective of this section is not merely to protect the information but to protect the integrity and security of computer resources from attacks by unauthorized person seeking to enter such resource, irrespective of the intention or motive.

3. Publishing of obscene information in electronic form

Section 67 of this Act states that anyone who publishes or transmits any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest electronically, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment up to five years and with fine which may increase up to one lakh rupees. If the person is involved in the event of a second or subsequent conviction, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term up to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

The State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Kati[11]

In this case, a man posted obscene, defamatory and annoying message about a divorcee woman in the Yahoo message group. These postings and fake messages resulted in annoying and demeaning phone calls to the lady. Based on the complaint of that woman, police nabbed the accused. He was a known family friend of the victim and wanted to marry her. She got married to another person, but that marriage ended in divorce and the accused once again started contacting her. When she did not agree to marry him, he started harassing her through the internet. The accused is found guilty of offenses under Section 67 of the IT Act 2000.

4. Penalty for breach of confidentiality and privacy

Section 72 of the Information Technology Act 2002 provides that- Any person who, in enactment of any of the powers conferred under this Act, rules or regulation, has secured assess to any electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material without the consent of the person of the authority shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.

Conclusion

Due to the rapid and sudden increase in digital technology, various offenses are increasing day by day. Therefore, the IT Act 2000 needs to get amended and updated time to time in order to include those offenses which are now not included in the Act. In India, cybercrime is not at its pinnacle, it is gradually speeding up. Hence, we have time in order to tighten the cyber laws and include the offenses which are now not included in the IT Act 2000.

From the time of the beginning of civilization, man has always been motivated by the need to make progress and improve the existing technologies. This has led to some incredible development and progress which has been a launching pad for further developments. If we consider all the significant advances mankind has made from the beginning to date, probably internet is one of the most important progression. Internet has opened a new dynamic for the human-kind.

However, the rapid increase and evolution of the Internet has also raised numerous legal issues and concerns over the time. As the scenario continues to be vague, countries throughout the world are still struggling and resorting to different approaches towards controlling, regulating and facilitating electronic communication and commerce.

[1] United Nations Commissions on International Trade Law is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law, with a mandate to further the progressive harmonization and unification of the law of international trade.

[2] Moore, R. (2005) “Cyber crime: Investigating High-Technology Computer Crime,” Cleveland, Mississippi: Anderson Publishing.

[3] Warren G. Kruse, Jay G. Heizer (2002). Computer forensics: incident response essentials. Addison-Wesley. p. 392. ISBN 0-201-70719-5.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Cyber Security means protecting information, equipment, devices computer, computer resource, communication device and information stored therein from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction.

[6] Section 65, The information Technology Act, 2000.

[7] Syed Asifuddin And Ors. vs The State of Andhra Pradesh, 1985, (1) ALD Cri 96, CriLJ 4314.

[8] State vs Mohd. Afzal And Ors, 2003 VIIAD Delhi 1, 107 (2003) DLT 385, 2003 (71) DRJ 178, 2003 (3) JCC 1669.

[9] Section 66, Information Technology Act, 2000.

[10] R v. Whiteley, [1991] 93 cr App rep 25.

[11] The State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Kati, 2004.

Contributed by: Shourya Shubam (CNLU)

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