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Cyber Crimes and Cyber Law - the Indian perspective

Written by: Jagruti Dekavadiya - 2nd year student of B.A.LL.B. (Hons.) - Nirma University Institute of Law
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Information is a resource which has no value until it is extracted, processed and utilized. Information technology deals with information system, data storage, access, retrieval, analysis and intelligent decision making. Information technology refers to the creation, gathering, processing, storage, presentation and dissemination of information and also the processes and devices that enable all this to be done.

Information technology is affecting us as individual and as a society. Information technology stands firmly on hardware and software of a computer and tele-communication infrastructure. But this is only one facet of the information Technology, today the other facets are the challenges for the whole world like cyber crimes and more over cyber terrorism. When Internet was first developed, the founding fathers hardly had any inkling that internet could transform itself into an all pervading revolution which could be misused for criminal activities and which required regulations. With the emergence of the technology the misuse of the technology has also expanded to its optimum level the examples of it are:
- Cyber stalking
- Cyber harassment
- Cyber fraud
- Cyber defamation
- Spam
- Hacking
- Trafficking
- Distribution
- Posting and dissemination of obscene material including pornography,
- Indecent exposure and child pornography etc.

The misuse of the technology has created the need of the enactment and implementation of the cyber laws but whether this cyber laws are capable to control the cyber crime activities, the question requires the at most attention.

Cyber Crimes and Cyber terrorism: “Is the Internet the new “Wild Wild West?”

There can be no one exhaustive definition about Cybercrime. However, any activities which basically offend human sensibilities, can also be included in its ambit. Child Pornography on the Internet constitutes one serious Cybercrime. Similarly, online pedophiles, using internet to induce minor children into sex, are as much Cyber criminals as any other.

“Cyber terrorism is the premeditated, politically motivated attack against information, computer systems, computer programs, and data which result in violence against property, government and people at large.”

In the era of globalization: the use of steganography[1] as a means for communicating the terrorist design online – Red Fort case, E-mail threats in Taj Mahal Case, Supreme Court E mail Threat Case. The use of internet to plan and carry out the terrorists’ acts of September 11th – World Trade Center attack, reflects the present condition and provides the answer to the question that “Is the internet the new Wild Wild West?”

Forms of Cyber Terrorism:[2]

(I) Privacy violation:

The law of privacy is the recognition of the individual's right to be let alone and to have his personal space inviolate. The right to privacy as an independent and distinctive concept originated in the field of Tort law, under which a new cause of action for damages resulting from unlawful invasion of privacy was recognized. In recent times, however, this right has acquired a constitutional status, the violation of which attracts both civil as well as criminal consequences under the respective laws. The intensity and complexity of life have rendered necessary some retreat from the world. Man under the refining influence of culture, has become sensitive to publicity, so that solitude and privacy have become essential to the individual. Modern enterprise and invention have, through invasions upon his privacy, subjected him to mental pain and distress, far greater than could be inflicted by mere bodily injury. Right to privacy is a part of the right to life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. With the advent of information technology the traditional concept of right to privacy has taken new dimensions, which require a different legal outlook. To meet this challenge recourse of Information Technology Act, 2000 can be taken.
The various provisions of the Act aptly protect the online privacy rights of the citizens. Certain acts have been categorized as offences and contraventions, which have tendency to intrude with the privacy rights of the citizens.

(II) Secret information appropriation and data theft:

The information technology can be misused for appropriating the valuable Government secrets and data of private individuals and the Government and its agencies. A computer network owned by the Government may contain valuable information concerning defense and other top secrets, which the Government will not wish to share otherwise. The same can be targeted by the terrorists to facilitate their activities, including destruction of property. It must be noted that the definition of property is not restricted to moveables or immoveables alone.

In R.K. Dalmia v Delhi Administration the Supreme Court held that the word "property" is used in the I.P.C in a much wider sense than the expression "movable property". There is no good reason to restrict the meaning of the word "property" to moveable property only, when it is used without any qualification. Whether the offence defined in a particular section of IPC can be committed in respect of any particular kind of property, will depend not on the interpretation of the word "property" but on the fact whether that particular kind of property can be subject to the acts covered by that section.

(III) Demolition of e-governance base:

The aim of e-governance is to make the interaction of the citizens with the government offices hassle free and to share information in a free and transparent manner. It further makes the right to information a meaningful reality. In a democracy, people govern themselves and they cannot govern themselves properly unless they are aware of social, political, economic and other issues confronting them. To enable them to make a proper judgment on those issues, they must have the benefit of a range of opinions on those issues. Right to receive and impart information is implicit in free speech. This, right to receive information is, however, not absolute but is subject to reasonable restrictions which may be imposed by the Government in public interest.

(IV) Distributed denial of services attack:

The cyber terrorists may also use the method of distributed denial of services (DDOS) to overburden the Government and its agencies electronic bases. This is made possible by first infecting several unprotected computers by way of virus attacks and then taking control of them. Once control is obtained, they can be manipulated from any locality by the terrorists. These infected computers are then made to send information or demand in such a large number that the server of the victim collapses. Further, due to this unnecessary Internet traffic the legitimate traffic is prohibited from reaching the Government or its agencies computers. This results in immense pecuniary and strategic loss to the government and its agencies.

It must be noted that thousands of compromised computers can be used to simultaneously attack a single host, thus making its electronic existence invisible to the genuine and legitimate citizens and end users. The law in this regard is crystal clear.

(V) Network damage and disruptions:

The main aim of cyber terrorist activities is to cause networks damage and their disruptions. This activity may divert the attention of the security agencies for the time being thus giving the terrorists extra time and makes their task comparatively easier. This process may involve a combination of computer tampering, virus attacks, hacking, etc.

Information Technology Act, 2000 deals with the cyber crime problems. It has some positive as well as negative aspects.

Positive Aspects of the IT Act, 2000[3]

1. Prior to the enactment of the IT Act, 2000 even an e-mail was not accepted under the prevailing statutes of India as an accepted legal form of communication and as evidence in a court of law. But the IT Act, 2000 changed this scenario by legal recognition of the electronic format. Indeed, the IT Act, 2000 is a step forward.

2. From the perspective of the corporate sector, companies shall be able to carry out electronic commerce using the legal infrastructure provided by the IT Act, 2000. Till the coming into effect of the Indian Cyber law, the growth of electronic commerce was impeded in our country basically because there was no legal infrastructure to regulate commercial transactions online.

3. Corporate will now be able to use digital signatures to carry out their transactions online. These digital signatures have been given legal validity and sanction under the IT Act, 2000.

4. In today’s scenario, information is stored by the companies on their respective computer system, apart from maintaining a back up. Under the IT Act, 2000, it shall now be possible for corporate to have a statutory remedy if any one breaks into their computer systems or networks and causes damages or copies data. The remedy provided by the IT Act, 2000 is in the form of monetary damages, by the way of compensation, not exceeding Rs. 1, 00, 00,000.

5. IT Act, 2000 has defined various cyber crimes which includes hacking and damage to the computer code. Prior to the coming into effect of the Indian Cyber law, the corporate were helpless as there was no legal redress for such issues. But the IT Act, 2000 changes the scene altogether.

The Grey Areas of the IT Act, 2000[4]:

1. The IT Act, 2000 is likely to cause a conflict of jurisdiction.

2. Electronic commerce is based on the system of domain names. The IT Act, 2000 does not even touch the issues relating to domain names. Even domain names have not been defined and the rights and liabilities of domain name owners do not find any mention in the law.

3. The IT Act, 2000 does not deal with any issues concerning the protection of Intellectual Property Rights I the context of the online environment. Contentious yet very important issues concerning online copyrights, trademarks and patents have been left untouched by the law, thereby leaving many loopholes.

4. As the cyber law is growing, so are the new forms and manifestations of cyber crimes. The offences defined in the IT Act, 2000 are by no means exhaustive. However, the drafting of the relevant provisions of the IT Act, 2000 makes it appear as if the offences detailed therein are the only cyber offences possible and existing. The IT Act, 2000 does not cove various kinds of cyber crimes and Internet related crimes.

These Include:-
a) Theft of Internet hours
b) Cyber theft
c) Cyber stalking
d) Cyber harassment
e) Cyber defamation
f) Cyber fraud
g) Misuse of credit card numbers
h) Chat room abuse

5. The IT Act, 2000 has not tackled several vital issues pertaining to e-commerce sphere like privacy and content regulation to name a few. Privacy issues have not been touched at all.

6. Another grey area of the IT Act is that the same does not touch upon any anti- trust issues.

7. The most serious concern about the Indian Cyber law relates to its implementation. The IT Act, 2000 does not lay down parameters for its implementation. Also, when internet penetration in India is extremely low and government and police officials, in general are not very computer savvy, the new Indian cyber law raises more questions than it answers. It seems that the Parliament would be required to amend the IT Act, 2000 to remove the grey areas mentioned above.

The new legislation which can cover all the aspects of the Cyber Crimes should be passed so the grey areas of the law can be removed. The recent blasts in Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Delhi reflects the threat to the mankind by the cyber space activities against this I personally believes that only the technology and its wide expansion can give strong fight to the problems. The software’s are easily available for download should be restricted by the Government by appropriate actions. New amendment should be including to the IT Act, 2000 to make it efficient and active against the crimes. The training and public awareness programs should be organized in the Companies as well as in common sectors. The number of the cyber cops in India should be increased. The jurisdiction problem is there in the implementation part which should be removed because the cyber criminals does not have any jurisdiction limit then why do the laws have, after all they laws are there, to punish the criminal but present scenario gives them the chance to escape.

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