Cyber law is a branch of law which governs the laws relating to cyberspace. Cyberspace is a computer-generated world of internet. Crimes which are committed virtually through computers, internet in this Cyberspace are known as Cyber-crimes. In this fast-growing world, at present everything from shopping a dress to buying car or house and even imparting education is done with the use of internet and computers. Therefore, there is need for having an efficient laws which governs them, in order to prevent unlawful activities which can be performed by them, as there has been increase in cyber-crimes.
Some examples of the Cybercrime include, identity theft, cyber terrorism, cyber bullying, hacking, defamation, copyright, harassment and stalking etc.
Cyber laws in India:
The cyber laws in India were primarily contain Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act). It was enacted in the year 2000, with the objective to provide legal recognition to the crimes in which involves electronic data exchange. This act mainly needed to address Cyber-crimes, Intellectual Property Right, Data protection and privacy, electronic and digital signature etc.
Through this act further Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Banker’s Books Evidence Act, 1935 were amended and updated them relating to cyber law.
Later in the year 2008, IT Act, 2000 was amended, through the amendment, many change were made in the act, such as changing the definition of communication devices, imposing liability for data breaches, to make IP address owner accountable for crimes committed, it also introduced Section 66A which made sending Offensive messages a punishable offence, Section 69 was introduced. It also introduced provisions relating to pornography, child porn, Cyber terrorism and voyeurism.
Intermediary Guidelines Rules 2011 was a secondary legislation to IT Act, which provides certain rules regarding e-commerce. Recently in the year 2021, the above rules were suppressed by The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. The main purpose of this Act to ensure that intermediaries to prohibit users from posting certain content that threatens public health and safety. It prohibits to host, store or publish any unlawful information which may threaten the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India.
Judiciary in Cyber Law:
Along with all the laws mentioned, judiciary also plays an important role in Cybersecurity by giving significant judgements, which helped to shape India’s Cyber laws time to time. Some of the major decisions are:
Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India (AIR 2015 SC 1523), in this case two women were arrested for posting some objectionable comments on Facebook regarding shutdown in Mumbai. They were arrested under Section 66A of the IT Act. The women in the case files petition challenging the validity of Section 66A before Supreme court, on the ground that it was violative of Freedom of Speech under Article 19(1)(a) of constitution.
The court removed Section 66A from IT Act, by reasoning that it is arbitrary and violative of Right to freedom of Speech, which is a fundamental right. It also reasoned that though Section 66A is removed, provisions from IPC relating to such acts are still applicable.
In the case Shamsher Singh Verma vs. State of Haryana (2015 SCC OnLine SC 122), the Supreme court held that a compact Disc can be admissible as a document under Section 294 (1) of CrPC, and also started that the accused, complainant, or witness does not need to personally admit or deny a document.
CBI vs. Asif Azim, which is also known as Sony Sambhandh case is one if the landmark and significant judgement in cyber-crimes, where the court cited that when there is no sufficient provisions in IT Act, the provisions in Indian Penal Code, 1860 can become a effective piece of legislation in cyber law.
State of Tamil Nadu vs. Suhaskatti (CC No. 4680 of 2004), this is a landmark case in Cyber laws as it ensured the conviction of the accused was possible within 7 months from filing FIR, where the accused used opened false email address in victim’s name and posted defamatory posts on victim. This case was efficiently handled and speedy justice was possible.
In the case Avnish Bajaj vs. State (NCT) of Delhi (2008 150 DLT 769), the CEO of Bazee.com, was arrested as someone sold the copies of CD containing pornographic material using the website under Section 67 of IT Act. The court here differentiated between the service provider and content creator, and held that the accused was not involved in airing the pornographic content as some other person was the one who used the website (content creator) . But the onus is on accused to prove that he was just as service provider.
In the case Syed Asifuddin and Ors vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and Anr (2005 CriLJ
4314), the main issue was whether the telephone headset is “Computer “under Section 2(1)(i) of
IT Act and whether alteration of ESN of mobile amounts to alteration of source code under Section 65 of IT Act. The Court here held that telephone headset comes within the ambit of Section 2(1)(i) after interpreting the section. It also held the change in ESN amounts to alteration under Section 65 as it allows other service providers to use the headset.
These are the Cyber laws which are enacted in order to govern the cybersecurity of the country. Along with legislation, judiciary also played a role in providing significant decisions in the field of Cyber law in India.
Cyber-crimes are increasing in an enormous rate as there is increase in e-commerce, in day to day life. All the activities of an individual in recent times are done through computers and internet.
Therefore, it to prone to be misused by people to do any unlawful activities. India being a growing nation, there is need for efficient cyber laws for cybersecurity. Though India has IT Act, 2000 and others which cover many areas, there are still certain areas on which cyber-crime laws in India do not apply such as power of Attorney, Will, Negotiable Instrument being other than cheque, the contract for Sae or Conveyance of immovable property. There is still a long way to go for Indian laws with respect to cyber laws, which need to be improved in future.
This article is written by Sahana S of Kristu Jayanti College of Law.