Current Status of Cyber Appellate Tribunal

Recently press appears to have discovered a new interest on reporting the current status of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal in India.

Last week the Mumbai press reported the number of cases decided by the Maharashtra Adjudicator Mr Rajesh Agarwal who has become the “King of Adjudicators” by deciding on a number of adjudication complaints. In particular, on 20th January, TOI Nagpur reported the case of a senior citizen who got a relief of Rs 3 lakhs from State bank of India. on 14th January, TOI had also reported that in recent times six banks and a telecom operator had been asked to pay compensation under ITA 2008 in different decisions.

This development is encouraging. After the Tamil Nadu adjudicator Mr P W C Davidar kicked off the trend with the Adjudication in the case of S.Umashankar Vs ICICI Bank and ordered ICICI Bank to pay compensation to the phishing victim, and followed it up with another similar decision, Banks started fighting back to defeat the system. First the Banks tried to manipulate RBI through policy changes which however did not succeed. In fact RBI through the Gopala Krishna Working Group report on E Banking security reiterated the liability of Banks in such cases. However after the new Governor of RBI took over different wings of RBI has not been focusing on E Banking security and there is a danger of the system turning anti customer in due course.

The undersigned has been running a crusade to ensure that the well intentioned system of fast grievance redressal system envisaged under ITA 2000 which could provide compensation to cyber crime victims withing 4 months under adjudication and settlement of the appeal at the next level within 6 months through a simple process.

After the initial successes with the TN adjudicator, except for the island of wisdom running in Maharashtra through Mr Rajesh Aggarwal, there is gloom alround the country when it comes to cyber crime victims.

I reiterate again and again that neither Mr Narendra Modi our honourable Prime Minister nor the minister of IT Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad has shown any inclination to remove the gloom.

Let me record here once again why I am forced to make such a strong statement against an otherwise commendable performance by Mr Modi in other sectors and as I continue to watch the Republic Day celebrations.

First reversal to the fortune of Cyber Crime victims occurred in Tamil Nadu when Ms J Jayalalitha took over as the CM. As a matter of routine, she shifted Mr P W C Dawidar from the post of IT Secretary. Other IT Secretaries who followed never discharged their responsibilities as “Adjudicators” to the extent Mr Dawidar had done.

The second major reversal occurred in Bangalore which is otherwise supposed to be the repository of IT wisdom in the country. Here a conflict of interest intervened a decision in which Axis bank was one of the respondents because it also happenned to be a Banker to the E Governance activities of the Government. The result was that the adjudicator dismissed the complaint for the reason “The word Person used in Section 43 of ITA 2000 does not include a company and hence no complaint can be entertained if filed by a Company or against a Company”. This effectively kept Companies outside the purview of most of the ITA 2000 and no complaint either civil or criminal could be filed either by a Company or Against a company. This converted Karnataka into a “Cyber Crime Haven”.

Despite the Karnataka Human Rights Commission taking up the issue and the Legal department of the Karantaka Government confirming that the word “Person” in law includes a body corporate, the current IT Secretary has made it an ego issue and refuses to accept that a mistake was made.

Karnataka High Court as well as the Chief Minister of Karnataka have also failed to intervene effectively to correct the situation.

Now the only legal means available to the Cyber Crime victims is to get the order of the Karnataka Adjudicator reversed through an appeal at the Cyber Appellate Tribunal.

Here in comes the greatest disappointment. It has been more than 3 years since Justice Mr Rajesh Tandon retired as the Chair Person. Since then the Government of India has been unable to appoint a successor. Yesterday’s article in New Indian Express has rightly captured the developments and drawn the attention of the public to the unacceptable situation that prevails in the country when the apex cyber judiciary authority remains non functional due to non appointment of a chair person.

It is necessary to point out that this bizarre situation has been brought to the notice of all relevant Ministers, Chief Ministers, Prime Ministers, President of India as well as the Chief Justices of Karnataka and the Supreme Court as well as political party leaders, at different points of time.  But it appears that no body is able to find a solution to the problem.

During the days of the UPA Government it appeared that the department wanted to push through one appointment which the then Chief Justice of India did not approve and hence there was a delay. But now that there is Mr Modi’s Government and a new Chief Justice it appears that this issue is simply not in the priority list of activities either for Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad nor Mr Modi.

I wish some body responsible in the PMO takes up this issue and brings it to the knowledge of Mr Modi.

I would like to ask our action oriented Prime Minister, if the appointment of a Chair Person to the Cyber Appellate Tribunal more difficult than forging a friendship treaty with Mr Obama?

I would like to ask the lawyer turned IT Minister Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, whether it is possible to speak about Cyber Security without having a proper Cyber Crime judicial system in the country?

I would like to ask the Secretary of the MCIT, whether it is not possible to find a suitable candidate acceptable to the Chief Justice of India or there is no willingness to act?

I wonder who is the beneficiary of this grand negligence? Any guesses?

Or Should we ask Mr Modi’s friend Barak to use his good offices and make it a part of Indo-US security related discussions!

Naavi