The government has recently said in Rajya Sabha that 1,600 arrests have been made related to cyber crimes under the Information Technology Act of 2000.
Interestingly, while the number of arrests has been 1,600 and cases registered 3682, the conviction rate is a shocking seven, of which only three are significant.
The interesting aspect of these numbers is that the number of cyber crimes has gone up 10 fold in the past couple of years and legal experts would say that the reason for this is the low rate of conviction.
The data available with the National Crime Records Bureau reads thus: In the year 2007, the arrests made were 154 while in the following year it was 178. In the years 2009 and 2010 the number of persons arrested were 288 and 799 and in 2011 it was 1,184. This is clearly a huge rise in the number of arrests.
The NCRB records also show that 217,288, 420,966 and 1,791 cyber crime cases were registered under IT Act, 2000 during the years 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
While on one hand, it could be argued that the cyber police have become more pro active while on the other it could be said that the number of instances have gone up due to a weak law and also the fact that the number of convictions are at a miserable low.
As per the records maintained by the various cyber crime police stations in India, here are the crimes committed on the internet for which these people have been arrested: Source code attacks, hacking, obscenity, breach of confidentiality or privacy, mischief, criminal trespass, data theft, cheating, criminal intimidation and defamation.
During the various arguments that have been conducted in courts, advocates have found that the police find it extremely difficult to defend their case.
It has always been a case of low risk and high payback. Very often they are not able to substantiate their trail, says, B P Venkatesh, an advocate from Bangalore who has argued several cases on these lines. Moreover the conviction rate is pathetic and is in single digits.
An official with the cyber crime police station says that the low rate of convictions defeats the purpose. Most of the police stations are not technically up to the mark and hence the collection of evidence is extremely difficult.
To add to this there is late detection and the lack of proper support. If police personnel from law and order are transferred into cyber crime police stations, they hardly are of any help as they lack the expertise and hence the need for private players and ethical hackers becomes very important. India at least needs five lakh ethical hackers to prevent the rise in cyber crime.
Venkatesh further argues that the government needs to focus on these aspects. However they are busy by issuing gag orders on the Internet which hardly serves the purpose.
Pavan Duggal, cyber crime expert and a senior advocate, points out that the convictions are in single digits. This is despite having the IT Act since the past 12 years.
Most of the times we are not able to reach convictions because of the inability to come up with credible and legally valid electronic evidence. Most of the time electronic evidence is not captured in the right manner nor is it retained and preserved in the manner required by the Indian Evidence Act.
Electronic crimes can be convicted only on electronic evidence and the lack of the same leads to low convictions. By and large the mindset of the police is to rely on the Indian Penal Code and not on the provision of the IT Act. Hence the people's confidence in the efficacy of cyber crimes and punishments defined under IT Act substantially erodes it.
Barring a couple of cyber crimes many were made bailable offences where the accused was entitled to bail as a matter of right.
Consequently the moment the accused gets bail; his first priority is to destroy the evidence which further makes the job of getting convictions more difficult.
The speed with which the police is required to act and collect electronic evidence is normally very tardy and consequently by not acting on time, the police contributes to the cause of low convictions.
Let us now take a look at the history of the manner in which the courts in India have dealt with cases of cyber crimes.
The first conviction came in the Sony India Private limited case.
The complaint was filed by Sony India Private Limited which used to run a website sony-sambandh.com which enabled NRIs to send Sony products to India.
On this site a colour television was ordered and the payment was made through a credit card. The product was to be delivered to Noida and all procedures had been followed.
However two months later the credit card said that this was an unauthorised transaction following which a case of cheating was filed with the CBI.
On investigation it was that the person who received the television set had gained access. Before court the crime was admitted and the accused was convicted.
However the court released the accused on probation for a year since he was only 24 years old.
The second significant case involved a juvenile. In the year 2001, there was a complaint to the Delhi police stating that some vulgar remarks had been made by a boy against a girl on a website.
The court in this case said that the accused would face trial under the IT Act for intending to outrage the modesty of a woman.
The third case pertained to obscene and defamatory messages that were posted on the Yahoo group.
The accused from Bombay in this case had created a fake ID and was sending out mails stating that a divorced woman was soliciting. This lead to phone calls to the lady.
A complaint was lodged and the youth was traced. The trial was held and the court sentenced him to 2 years rigorous imprisonment.
In this case a pastor and his son had posted nude images of a priest in Kerala.
Balan and his son had posted nude images of pastor Abraham on a website which led to the filing of a complaint. In this case the court sentenced the father and son to three years rigorous imprisonment.
This case involved Dr L Prakash who was convicted for manipulating his patients in various ways, forcing them to commit sex acts on camera and posting the pictures and videos on the Internet.
The doctor was arrested in 2001. In this case the accused was sentenced to life imprisonment. Not only were the provisions in the IT Act taken into consideration, but the court also observed that such acts had led to immoral trafficking.
In this case a 16-year-old boy from Gujarat had threatened to blow up a railway station. He sent the news to a private news channel which aired the same.
His guilt was proven before the court, but the prosecution will have to wait since he is a juvenile.
At Malappuram in Kerala, two Nigerians were sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment after they had cheated a doctor of Rs 30 lakh.
Johnson Nwanonyi (32) and Michel Obiorahmuozboa (34), both hailing from Anambra state in Nigeria, were sentenced each under sections 420(cheating)-5 years, and 468(forgery)-5 years of IPC and section 66(D) (phishing) of Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 -2 years and a fine of Rs 1.25 lakh by a Chief Judicial Magistrate V Dileep in Manjeri in Malappura.