CyAT was established to settle the appeal regarding civil disputes between an IT User and any person who might have caused a wrongful loss to him which is adjudicated by an adjudicator or the CCA. Essentially the disputes involved a “Cyber Crime” leading to a loss of money.
TDSAT on the other hand was established to settle the disputes between the Telecom service providers and between the Service provider and the Government. As regards the consumers the Act provided only for disputes between a “Group of Consumers” and the service providers.
In other words, TDSAT did not envisage dealing directly with the Consumers. The consumer disputes were outside the jurisdiction of the TDSAT.
The work of the TDSAT also does not involve evaluation of any crime.
The qualification criteria for the post of the Chair person of CyAT was that the person should have been eligible to be appointed as a Judge of a High Court. The Criteria for TDSAT is that he has been a Judge of a Supreme Court or a Chief Justice of a High Court.
It is therefore evident that the cadre of the Chair person of TDSAT is a few notches above that of the CyAT.
The appeal from the CyAT was to the High Court of the appropriate jurisdiction namely the State from which the adjudication was referred to. In the case of TDSAT, the appeal goes to the Supreme Court.
Hence the High Court has been completely taken out of the equation in case of Cyber Crime related civil disputes.
If one takes a look at the type of disputes that are there in the two tribunals, disputes at TDSAT are big ticket disputes while the CyAT disputes are small ticket disputes.
However the nature of disputes are completely different. While the TDSAT disputes are more contractual disputes, CyAT disputes revolve around nuances of Technology law and its interpretation. Though small in value, CyAT disputes are perhaps as complicated if not more as the TDSAT disputes.
Expertise required for resolving CyAT disputes is different from the expertise required for resolving TDSAT disputes.
We can therefore consider that the culture presently built up in TDSAT both by the bench as well as the administration will be alien to the culture of the CyAT.
This will reflected in all aspects of interaction between the CyAT parties and TDSAT. It could result in higher fees, more rigid implementation of procedural documentation, (such as how many copies are to be filed, whether the copies should be bound in a particular manner, whether the pages are in legal paper size,whether the applications are to be affixed with stamps, notorized), etc. The emphasis may be more on the adherence to the procedures and individual who would like to appear in person will find it difficult not to annoy the senior Supreme Court judges who will handle the bench.
It is likely to be intimidating to the ordinary members of the public to represent themselves before TDSAT when compared to CyAT.
Given the low ticket value of the disputes, there is also the danger of CyAT cases getting a step motherly treatment in terms of listing and other priorities.
At this point of time, these are apprehensions and I wish they remain apprehensions. But given the unfortunate precedence where some of my unpleasant predictions have become true, I am keeping my fingers crossed and wish my apprehensions remain as such and don’t turn out to be the reality.
We will have a better reflection of what will happen when the rules for CyAT cases to be handled by TDSAT are formulated. We will wait for that.
However, experts in traditional jurisprudence and Constitution may reflect whether between the “Enquiry” of the “Adjudicator” to the “Supreme Court” only one judicial process of the TDSAT would be considered a good judicial practice and whether this is a wise way of structuring the Cyber judicial system in proper hierarchical steps. It is like jumping from the Magistrate’s Court to Supreme Court in one single step.
Though the TDSAT has the powers to define its own procedures which can make it less complicated than the Civil Procedure Code, unless TDSAT starts a “Roving Bench” for CyAT cases where the bench sits in different State Capitals as a matter of routine and also makes provisions for “Online Hearings”, TDSAT will be considered as less people friendly than CyAT.
I feel that Mr Jaitely and his team has erred on this aspect of looking for the perspective of the litigants, just chasing cost reduction or to cover up their inability to find a Chair Person for CyAT.
While I still wish some sense will return to those who drafted this amendment and they would drop this idea of merger and instead focus on finding a suitable Chair Person for CyAT as it exists, the possibility that this will be cry in the wilderness is very high.
If unfortunately the merger proposition goes through, I call upon the TDSAT Chair person to work with the MeiTY and the current CyAT Registrar to form a sub committee to draft the rules regarding how the CyAT disputes will be handled by TDSAT.
I also call upon the Government and TDSAT Chairperson to seriously explore means of creating a “Sub-Bench” exclusively for CyAT which holds sittings in State Capitals in frequent intervals and allows Online interaction and introduce other measures including a lower filing fees and formalities in conducting of the hearings.