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Introduction to Cyber Crimes: Relevant provisions under The Information Technology Act, 2000

Object and Application under the Act

The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) is an important piece of legislation in India that addresses various aspects of the digital and cyber domain, including cybercrimes. It was enacted to provide legal recognition to electronic transactions and to facilitate e-governance while also addressing concerns related to cybercrimes and data security.

Object of the Act:
The primary objective of the Information Technology Act, 2000, is to create a legal framework for electronic transactions and communications, ensuring their validity and security. It aims to:
  1. Facilitate E-commerce: The Act promotes e-commerce and electronic transactions by giving them legal recognition.
  2. Data Protection: It addresses issues related to data protection, privacy, and security in the digital space.
  3. Cybercrimes: It defines and penalizes various cybercrimes, providing a legal basis for prosecution.
  4. Electronic Governance: Supports e-governance initiatives and provides a framework for electronic record-keeping.

Application of the Act:
The IT Act applies to the whole of India and to any offense or contravention committed outside India by any person. It extends to:
  1. Persons: The Act applies to individuals, government entities, and businesses engaging in electronic transactions.
  2. Electronic Records: It covers electronic records, digital signatures, and other electronic data.
  3. Digital Signatures: The Act recognizes digital signatures and their legal validity.
Salient Features of the Act:
The Information Technology Act, 2000, is a comprehensive legislation in India that addresses various aspects of electronic transactions, data protection, and cybercrimes.

Here are some of the salient features of the Act:

  • Extra-territorial Jurisdiction: The Act's jurisdiction extends beyond national boundaries, allowing regulation of activities that may occur outside the country.
  • Definition of Terms: Defines various crucial terms like cyber cafes, digital signatures, electronic records, etc., under Section 2(1) for clarity and legal understanding.
  • Validation of Electronic Contracts: Declares contracts made through electronic means as legally valid and protected (Section 10A).
  • Legal Recognition of Electronic Transactions: The Act provides legal recognition to electronic records and digital signatures, making them equivalent to physical documents and handwritten signatures in most cases.
  • Recognition of Digital Signatures: Recognizes and establishes methods for authentication of digital signatures.
  • Appointment of Controller and Powers: Contains provisions for the appointment of a Controller and delineates their powers.
  • Recognition of Foreign Certifying Authorities: Acknowledges foreign certifying authorities (Section 19).
  • Penalties for System Damage: Outlines penalties for damages to computer systems caused by individuals other than the system's owner.
  • Establishment of Appellate Tribunal: Provides for the establishment of an Appellate Tribunal to handle appeals from decisions made by the Controller or Adjudicating officers. Appeals from the tribunal can further be escalated to the High Court.
  • Offences and Penalties: Defines various offences related to data and specifies the punishments for these offences.
  • Intermediaries' Liability Exemption: Specifies circumstances where intermediaries are not held liable, even if data privacy is breached.
  • Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee: Establishes a committee to advise the Central Government on matters related to e-commerce or digital signatures.

Offences, Punishment and Procedure of Investigation and Trial (Chapter XI - Sections 65 to 78)

Section Offense Description Punishment
65 Tampering with computer source documents Imprisonment up to 3 years, or fine up to 2 lakh rupees, or both
66 Computer-related offenses or any act mentioned in Section 43. Imprisonment up to 3 years, or fine up to 5 lakh rupees, or both
66A Sending offensive messages through communication service Imprisonment up to 3 years and fine
66B Dishonestly receiving stolen computer resource or device Imprisonment up to 3 years, or fine up to 1 lakh rupees, or both
66C Identity theft Imprisonment up to 3 years and fine up to 1 lakh rupees
66D Cheating by personation by using computer resource Imprisonment up to 3 years and fine up to 1 lakh rupees
66E Violation of privacy Imprisonment, up to 3 years, or fine up to 2 lakh rupees, or both
66F Cyber Terrorism Imprisonment, including imprisonment for life
67 Publishing or transmitting obscene material Imprisonment up to 5 years, and/or fine up to 10 lakh rupees
67A Publishing or transmitting sexually explicit material Imprisonment up to 7 years, and/or fine up to 10 lakh rupees
67B Publishing material depicting children in explicit acts Imprisonment up to 7 years, and/or fine up to 10 lakh rupees
67C Preservation and retention of information by intermediaries Imprisonment up to 3 years and fine

Procedure of Investigation and Trial (Chapter XI) under the Information Technology Act, 2000

The Information Technology Act, 2000 delineates a structured framework for the investigation and trial of cyber-related offences in Chapter XI. Here is a breakdown of the key components involved in this process:
  1. Investigation Procedure:
    1. Search and Seizure: Authorized police officers, not below the rank of an Inspector, possess the authority to conduct searches and seize computers, devices, or data believed to be associated with cyber offences.
    2. Power to Issue Directions for Interception or Monitoring or Decryption of Information: Government authorities are empowered to issue directives for monitoring, intercepting, or decrypting any information through computers if it is deemed essential for national sovereignty or security.
    3. Appointment of Adjudicating Officer: The Central Government appoints Adjudicating Officers responsible for hearing and deciding penalties for contraventions of rules or regulations established under the Act.
    4. Forensic Lab: Provision for the establishment of forensic labs by the government to analyze and process digital evidence crucial for investigations.
    5. Request for Information: Law enforcement officials or authorized officers hold the authority to request any person to provide information or extend assistance during investigations related to cyber offences.
  2. Trial Procedure:
    Applicability of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) (Section 78): The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, is applicable to all offences under the Information Technology Act, unless specifically stated otherwise.
    1. Court Jurisdiction: Cases under this Act fall within the jurisdiction of Courts not below the rank of a Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate of the First Class.
    2. Procedure for Trials: Trials for offences committed under this Act are conducted in a manner similar to a summary trial, expediting the legal process.
    3. Appellate Tribunal: Appeals from orders passed by the Adjudicating Officer are directed to the Cyber Appellate Tribunal, established under this Act, ensuring a channel for higher-level review and resolution.
    4. Burden of Proof: The burden of proof, whether proving innocence or guilt, rests with the accused or the individual challenging the order issued by the Adjudicating Officer.

Exemption from Liability of Intermediary in Certain Cases (Section 79)

Regardless of other existing laws, intermediaries are not held liable for third-party information, data, or communication links hosted or made available by them.

Conditions for Exemption:

  1. The exemption applies if:
    1. The intermediary's role is limited to providing access to a communication system where third-party information is transmitted or temporarily stored.
    2. The intermediary does not initiate the transmission, choose the recipient, or modify the transmitted information.
    3. The intermediary conducts its duties diligently and adheres to guidelines set by the Central Government.

Exceptions to Exemption:

  1. The exemption does not apply if:
    1. The intermediary has actively conspired, aided, abetted, or induced an unlawful act.
    2. After being informed by the appropriate Government or its agency about the use of their resources for unlawful activities, the intermediary fails to promptly remove or disable access to such materials without tampering with evidence.

Explanation: "Third-party information" in this context refers to any information handled by an intermediary in their capacity as an intermediary.

Written By: Harshavardhan Prakash Deshmukh, 4th Year Of B.A.LL.B. - Modern Law College, Pune
@DabanggLawyer Page -

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