The term “Cyber Crime” is not defined in Indian law. We can attribute this to the variety and capricious nature of these offences. Cyber Crimes have challenged the obsolete codes in India, most exactly the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 186 0. India, after a rise in cyber crimes, enacted the Information Technology Act (IT) of 2000. This act regulates, governs, and penalizes cyber offences. These two laws have been the bulwark of the Indian firewall against cybercrimes. Few provisions in these Acts are the same, and thus they run parallel. A recent statistic shows that Indians are targeted around 4000 times a day by cyberpunks during the lockdown period. This alone suffices the gravity of such attacks. Despite this, the Indian awareness about cybercrimes, their forms, and redressal mechanisms are minimal. In this article, the author attempts to aware of the citizenry of one of the most immediate threats of today.
Cyber Crimes under IPC and IT Act
The Indian Penal Code is a substantive law that applies to criminal offences in India. IT Act, as told earlier, is a bit more concerned about the cyber world. We would not read the provisions of both these acts in isolation. They together form a blend of comprehensive understanding. So, we are here having a parallel discussion on some of the general cyber offences that we all encounter in our day-to-day lives.
Hacking: Section 66 of the IT Act deals with hacking. It defines hacking as the “alteration of information residing in a computer source”. There must be an intention to commit hacking in the absence of which liability under section 66 will not lie. It prescribes imprisonment up to three years and a fine up to ten lakhs for hacking. Section 378 of the IPC deals with the theft of “movable property”. As data is movable, the same provisions apply to data theft. This prescribes a punishment of up to two years or a fine or both.
Cyber Stalking: One facet of online harassment is denigration which includes the posting of photos, texts, or any information by the perpetrator in cyberspace accessible to the third person. In this manner, Cyberbullying and Cyber-harassment are interchangeable. Cyberstalking is a kind of cyber harassment. Cyber harassment could say to be ‘the main motive behind cyberstalking’. IT Act is silent on this issue. Even the IPC doesn’t say much about online stalking. But sections 503- 507 of IPC can also cover cyberstalking. Still, India is in dire need of a law to prevent and penalize cyber harassment.
Online Fraud: According to government records, frauds alone constitute one-third of all the cyber crimes in the country. Online frauds could be in many forms like financial frauds, buyer collusion, etc.
This is also not defined under the IT Act, and we resort to IPC and the Indian Contract Act. IPC punishes fraud if committed with fraudulent intention but not otherwise. Cheating is also punishable under IPC.
Besides all these prevalent cyber offences, there are many other crimes addressed by a combination of laws in India. These include pornography, internet gambling, and security-related crimes, among others.
How to Register an FIR in Cyber Crimes?
Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has directed the states to register more First Information Reports (FIRs) for cybercrimes. As only 2.5 percent of complaints have ever been registered as FIRs, it is an immediate need for police to show vigilance in this regard.
While the Indian legal attitude towards cybercrimes is not comprehensive, the complaint filing mechanism is a bit simple. Though we would discuss the FIR registration, other modes of filing the complaint are also discussed. According to the IT Act, cybercrime is a globally categorized crime, and that’s why a complaint can be registered throughout the country. Every major city in India has a cyber cell which could be accessed through its online portal. This portal asks for name, contact details, and address for mailing. You, as a complainant, would address your complaint to the head of such a cyber cell. There are various remedies available depending upon the nature of the crime.
An FIR of cybercrimes can be registered in any local police station in India. One can also approach the superintendent of police or judicial magistrate for relief if local police do not register FIR. Police must register FIR. Indian law regards major offences against women and children (like cyberstalking, child pornography) as “cognizable”. The police in cognizable offences can arrest without a warrant.
The MHA has launched a centralized “Cyber Crime Reporting Portal” that can be accessed on mobile phones, and victims can easily complain. The portal asks for fundamental details about the incident and also inquires about the suspect. This is the easiest and most suitable forum for filing a complaint. The government is wary of the threats of cybercrimes and urged states to open more cyber cells.
India has more than forty percent population that accesses the internet. Every ten minutes, a cybercrime is reported in India; women and children being the most targeted. Despite this, the registration of the cyber complaint in India is at a record low. This can, to a great extent, be regarded as the ignorance of Indians to these offences. Laws, although competent, are often prone to misuse by authorities. Section 67, the IT Act has been grossly misused for curtailing political speech and censorship. Often, local police do not consider the online harassment to be a crime, don’t know what to do with the evidence or to whom they should escalate the report, or don’t think they can do anything about “virtual” harassment.
At last, the author likes to provide some suggestions for the prevention of cyber offences:
- One on the internet should be cautious when making “friends” and should avoid interacting with strangers and sharing personal information. Everyone should choose a gender-neutral username, or the e-mail ids should be a combination of characters and phrases that are meaningless.
- Parents should keep a check on the online activities of children. Schools and workplaces should start counselling programs and peer-to-peer interaction sessions. Cyberstalking should also be dealt with in the same way with full confidentiality.
- Softwares like Netnanny, Accountable2You restrict certain adulterated websites and give parents access to regulate it.
- One should not share information related to bank accounts, recent transactions, or any financial history on the internet. Even if a person claims himself to be an official, such information should not be disclosed as RBI’s guidelines prohibit such disclosure.
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