Let's Build a Responsible Cyber Society




DIT/Ministry of Information Technology ignores public interest call

It was pointed out through these columns (Refer: http://www.bloggernews.net/126784) that Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT) of India, which is an important judicial office connected with Cyber Crimes and contraventions under Information Technology Act 2000/8 has been deliberately allowed to remain without a head since 30th of June 2011.

People who know Indian judiciary may laugh at my pointing out this lapse since there may be many judicial positions in the country which remain vacant for various reasons and for much longer periods. However the inaction in the appointment of the Chairperson of CAT is more glaring than other cases. If a Court with a sanctioned strength of 10 judges have 3 or 4 posts remaining vacant it would be a 30 to 40% reduction of capacity. But the lack of appointment in CAT is a 100% reduction of capacity.

We are aware that CAT is the sole appellate authority for adjudications from all 28 States and 6 Union Territories. i.o.w. cases from 34 different courts in India are expected to land up in CAT for a decision on appeal. CAT itself is a fast court and is expected to take decisions within 6 months. The responsibility of CAT has now been sought to be increased by making it the appellate authority under the Right to Privacy bill which is supposed to be introduced in the Parliament in the next session. To let this institution remain head less is therefore a huge lapse in the administration.

More over, DIT has been brandishing the ITA 2000/8 as the framework of e-business in India upon which the future of Outsourcing industry depends. When it comes to discussion with the international vendors on whether there is Data Protection laws in India, DIT does not hesitate to say that ITA 2000/8 is the law and India is ready to do business with the world.

But what is the use of a law if there are no judicial bodies in place to uphold the law?

Now DIT is by not appointing a suitable replacement for the current Chair person or giving him an extension until a suitable substitute is found, has created a situation which is equivalent to not having cyber laws in India at all. We are therefore in the pre-2000 date as for as effective cyber laws are concerned. Perhaps NASSCOM should take note of this situation and stop misrepresenting to the global community that India has robust Cyber Laws.

In the present instance Justice Sri Rajesh Tandon the incumbent Chair person had an unexpired contract period for his appointment but due to the reaching of super annuation age, his term has been affected. This fact was known the day Mr Rajesh Tandon was appointed.

Any management person would therefore ask if the DIT had not diarised the need to take a decision well in time so that the continuity of the institution could have been preserved. The fact that DIT failed to act in time is a reflection of its inability to manage its affairs.

It is agreed that it is not easy to find a judicial person who is also technically informed adequately to head the CAT responsibilities. Mr Tandon was a retired High Court judge and during his term of appointment took the interest to complete a certification in Cyber law. It is therefore strange that the DIT did not consider using his services for some more time at least when there was no other replacement in sight.

For the department which has to fight a daily battle in the 2G case, the decision to appoint a Chairperson to CAT or let it remain head less may be the last priority. But for the people of this country this is a high priority. While they donot know if they get justice they want from the CAT, it will atleast prevent justice being delayed to the advantage of the wrongful beneficiary of a Cyber Crime.

DIT should understand that there are many pending cases both in the CAT and Adjudicating offices where many citizens of India who are victims of Cyber crimes are crying for justice. All of them are now are made to suffer more because of the inaction of DIT.

Over the last few months, I have personally brought the need for a quick decision in the matter to the attention of the honourable ministers Mr Kapil Sibal and Mr Gurudas Kamat, (Minister of State) as well as Mr R. Chandrashekar, Secretary .

I have also requested honourable Chief Justice of India and honourable President of India to interevene and ensure that the institution of CAT maintains a continuity.

However it appears that the file remains with the DIT and the department is more busy replying to the affidavit of Prashant Bhushan than disposing of such important pending files.

It is a tragedy that activists like the undersigned have to use the web to bring these into the attention of the concerned persons since people who matter have no time to respond to letters and most of them are not available on e-mail. (Even Mr Kapil Sibalís e-mail as given in the MIT site does not work). Unfortunately we donot have the resources to plead for help from the Supreme Court under a PIL.

However it is the duty of every citizen to keep reminding our executive and ministers of their duties hoping that at least some day the voice will be heard. Hopefully the opposition political parties and the main line media will find some time to address this relatively minor and non controversial decision which is pending simply because the department has zero priority for such issues.

I once again call upon the honourable minister Sri Kapil Sibal to devote five minutes of his time today the 11th july 2011 to pick up the file relating to the appointment of the Chairman of CAT and dispose it off in whatever manner he considers it fit. If the department has identified a suitable person for the position, let him take over at the earliest. If not, I urge the Minister to take a decision to give an extension to the current incumbent until a suitable person is found in replacement say in the next 6 months or one year.

Simultaneously the Chief Justice of India should initiate action to ensure that a few of the Judges who may be eligible for this position and be available over the next one year for CAT services may be trained in the Information Technology Aspects so that they can be appointed both to the position of the Chairperson in Delhi as well as as additional members either in Delhi or in benches of CAT at different places in India. The Chief Justice may also consider if it is practical to depute a sitting Judge and by rotation sitting judges of different high courts in India may be assigned the role of the Chair person of CAT so that the expertise in handling Cyber Crime cases spreads across the judiciary.

This request is in the interest of the Netizens of India and for re-establishment of a judicially protected Cyber Law environment in the Country which has not been in existence since June 30, 2011.

[P.S: I may be annoying a few with this note. My apologies to them. ]


July 11, 2011

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