Cybercrimes: Are the laws outdated for such types of crimes?

The concept of crime in society has been prevalent since time immemorial. With the changing nature of the society and its members so did the nature of the crime which also changed accordingly. In the 20th century with rising dependence on technology so does evolve a new branch of crime which is named Cybercrime. Criminals adopted a new method of committing a crime that is done using digital platforms. Cybercrime is defined as a crime when there is a use of a computer as an instrument for committing frauds, trafficking in child pornography, intellectual property, stealing identities, or violating privacy. Cybercrimes include a huge range of crimes from data theft to cyberbullying to planting viruses etc. These crimes can cause harm financially or can malice an individual’s identity. Hacking is referred to as unauthorized access over someone’s computer network system for illegal purposes. Another common cybercrime is Phishing which is a practice wherein fraudulent emails are sent and the recipient is asked for his/her personal bank details, passwords, etc. And one of the booming cybercrimes these days is identity theft wherein, an individual’s personal information is used for obtaining credit cards, loans, and also performing other crimes, etc.

Cybercrimes are one of the booming issues all around the world. It is a global subject as the Internet is not of any one particular state/country and thus, it affects all who are part of the global village of this new era. Cybercrimes crossing international borders i.e. when such crimes take place between two countries leading to the illegal attainment of highly confidential data or information also leads to the onset of cyberwarfare. A study done in 2018 stated that the annual damage to the global economy due to cybercrimes is estimated to be around $600 billion each year, which is around one percent of the global GDP. The IT Revolution has caused a huge challenge on the legal systems all around the world. The world is finally waking up to the call of action towards cybercrimes by making stringent laws and regulations. But still, there are many countries whose laws are not considered up to the mark to counter such crimes. One such country is India.

India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world that is rapidly moving towards digitalization and is heavily investing in developing its industrial up-gradation and IT infrastructure. But when we talk of growth and change each comes with both pros and cons. And one of the major drawbacks that India is currently facing is the inapt laws to deal with various cybercrimes.

How are the laws in India outdated to deal with cybercrimes?

According to recent Home Ministry data, the number of cybercrimes has doubled in the past 2 years. India can be called one of the active nations who took action by introducing certain enactments and amendments called cyber laws. India is a country who dealt with this growing act of cybercrime by enacting the Information Technology Act, 2000 i.e. India’s Cyber Law which was intended to regulate the growing e-business and it dealt with the unauthorized use of the internet which was already a part of various provisions under the Indian Penal Code. The Information Technology Act, 2000 includes a huge range of offenses like tempering with computer sources, sending offensive messages, violation of privacy, publishing obscene material, etc. Offenses like data theft, virus attack, hacking, etc., are prosecuted under Section 66 read with Section 43 of the IT Act, and cases like forging a credit or debit card or fraudulent intent to cause wrongful loss or gain can be prosecuted under Section 463 to Section 471, IPC. IT (Amendment) Act, 2008 has provisions for identity theft under Section 66C or cheating by misrepresenting online under Section 66D. Pornography is one of the rising cybercrimes for which the Information Technology Act, 2008 has made provisions. Victims of porn may file complaints of violation of privacy under Section 66E, Section 67, and Section 67A of IT Act, 2008 in addition to other IPC provisions. For child pornography also IT Act, 2008 has provided a provision under Section 67B. And apart from this, there are many other laws provided both in IPC and the IT Act, 2008 for the purpose of fighting cybercrimes of various types like online sales of drugs or ammunition or forgery or sending threatening or defamatory or fraudulent emails, etc.

Now, the question that arises is that even though India’s legal system has provided its citizens with so many provisions, why is it that still the rate of cybercrimes in India is on a rise?                                                                                     

  • The answer to this can be sought from the fact that the laws in India are not strict enough in comparison to other countries. For example: the punishment for child pornography in India is of mere 5 years of imprisonment under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act,2012 ; whereas, it is a minimum 15 -30 years of imprisonment in the US. Another major drawback that India faces is that the Information Technology Act, 2000 includes everything from hacking to cyber terrorism. This Act includes offences from Cyber Terrorism to hacking. Cyber Terrorism is punishable with life imprisonment and on the other hand, other offences are punishable from 3 to 7 years. Punishments are not very stringent which has not lead to the creation of fear among such cyber criminals. This results in a drawback which is that there is no division based on the intensity of crime like a mere hacker should not be imprisoned unless it includes phishing, money laundering, email frauds etc. But, at the same time those who have caused major monetary or mental harm to anyone by hacking then, there is no provision to convict him for life imprisonment. Thus, there is an urgent need for Indian legal system to create more stringent laws for cybercrimes.
  • Another reason which shows that the laws for cybercrimes are not apt is that the Conviction rate in cases of cybercrime is very low in India even though the rate of such crimes are increasing rapidly. As the judicial system in itself is very slow. But, matters of cybercrime are very time sensitive and thus, cases should be heard on priority basis. The reason for this is, the evidence shown in such cases are digital and there is always a possibility that someone can destroy or make the evidence unusable, thus there is a very short frame for the officials with evidence.
  • Another major issue is that even though the government has started spending a lot on training the police and other officials regarding the IT Department, but still the process of constant transfers and reporting often leads to no conclusion in resolving the case. There is a lack of trained IT personnel in the police force or IT Departments of the GOI i.e. there is a lack of manpower for dealing with cybercrimes. Also, government officers are not well aware of their adjudicating powers under the Information Technology Act, 2008 because of which such cases are often routed to the police station thereby, leading to a delay in the investigation.
  • Another reason hampering the credibility of the law enforcement system is the problem of lack of standard procedures for seizing as well as analysing the digital evidence. Also, there is no standard procedure and provision for ethical forensic examination of such digital evidence either. This has also been a major reason leading to fewer convictions in cases of cybercrimes. 

What can be done?

The Judiciary of India should look into the matter of laws for cybercrimes closely and suggest the Government for amendments. The punishments under the Information Technology Act, 2008 should be revised and there should be more division and diversification on how to handle different cases of same category. The Government of India should focus more on giving appropriate training to various forces and police personnel in dealing with such cybercrimes i.e., they should focus more on increasing the manpower under IT Cell. Also, we the people of this country should be made more aware about our rights and laws which stands to protect us and our identity as the citizen of India. And since, stricter laws should be made and awareness should be spread of the same, as only because everyone is aware of the fact that laws are not strict in India thus, they have no fear when it comes to committing cybercrimes.

In the present era of rapid growth, Information Technology has taken over all aspects of life, where technological developments as created new standards of speed, efficiency, and accuracy in communication leading to innovations and thus, increasing productivity. There is extensive use of computers worldwide ad are nowadays used for storing various confidential data of political, economic, or personal nature. There is a widespread increase in the usage of computers and the internet which gives a way to cybercriminals to access them. Internet is a place where anyone can access any information, forge them and even destroy them which is cybercrime. The cyber-world is non-physical and there is no boundary to either. It exists in intangible form but, it has the power to affect the real world massively both socially and economically. It has become a need of the hour to see the global perspective of cybercrimes and for countries to start defining cybercrimes. Even for Inia even though it is impossible to define the huge concept of cybercrime, but it is necessary to define cybercrime for the efficient and just execution of the cyber laws.

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