Offences Under IT Act, 2000

By Rahul Deo, CNLU Patna

Editors Note:The high and speedier connectivity to the world from any place has developed many crimes and these increased offences led to the need of law for protection. The IT Act was the result of such a need and this paper analyzes the offences under this Act.

INTRODUCTION

The introduction of the internet has brought tremendous changes to our lives. People of all fields are increasingly using the computers to create, transmit and store information in the electronic form instead of the traditional papers, documents. Information stored in electronic forms has many advantages, it is cheaper, easier to store, easier to retrieve and for speedier to connection. Though it has many advantages, it has been misused by many people in order to gain themselves or for the sake or otherwise to harm others. The high and speedier connectivity to the world from any place has developed many crimes and these increased offenses led to the need for a law for protection. Some countries have been rather been vigilant and formed some laws governing the net. In order to keep in pace with the changing generation, the Indian parliament passed the law – Information Technology Act, 2000.[i] The IT Act 2000 has been conceptualized on the United Nations Commissions on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model law[ii].

    The Government of India enacted its Information Technology Act, 2000 with the objectives stating officially as: “to provide legal recognition for transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication, commonly referred to as “electronic commerce”, which involve the use of alternatives to paper-based methods of communication and storage of information, to facilitate electronic filing of documents with the Government agencies and further to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Bankers Books Evidence Act, 1891 and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” [iii]

CYBERCRIME

Cybercrime is a generic term that refers to all criminal activities done using the medium of computers, the Internet, cyberspace and the worldwide web. Computer crime, or Cybercrime, refers to any crime that involves a computer and a network.[iv] The computer may have been used in the commission of a crime, or it may be the target.[v] Netcrime is criminal exploitation of the Internet.[vi]

Dr. Debarati Halder and Dr. K. Jaishankar (2011) define Cybercrimes as: “Offences that are committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm to the victim directly or indirectly, using modern telecommunication networks such as Internet (Chat rooms, emails, notice boards and groups) and mobile phones (SMS/MMS)”.[vii] Such crimes may threaten a nation’s security and financial health.[viii] Issues surrounding these types of crimes have become high-profile, particularly those surrounding cracking, copyright infringement, child pornography, and child grooming. There are also problems of privacy when confidential information is lost or intercepted, lawfully or otherwise.

An Australian nationwide survey conducted in 2006 found that two in three convicted cyber-criminals were between the ages of 15 and 26.

Internationally, both governmental and non-state actors engage in cybercrimes, including espionage, financial theft, and other cross-border crimes. Activity crossing international borders and involving the interests of at least one nation-state is sometimes referred to as cyber warfare. The international legal system is attempting to hold actors accountable for their actions through the International Criminal Court.[ix]

A report (sponsored by McAfee) estimates the annual damage to the global economy at $445 billion.[x]

There isn’t really a fixed definition for cybercrime. The Indian Law has not given any definition to the term ‘cybercrime’. In fact, the Indian Penal Code does not use the term ‘cybercrime’ at any point even after its amendment by the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008, the Indian Cyberlaw. But “Cyber Security” is defined under Section (2) (b) means protecting information, equipment, devices computer, computer resource, communication device and information stored therein from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification or destruction.[xi]

Cyber Crime is not defined officially in the IT Act or in any other legislation. In fact, it cannot be too. Offense or crime has been dealt with elaborately listing various acts and the punishments for each, under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and related legislation. Hence, the concept of cybercrime is just a “combination of crime and computer”.

Cybercrime in a narrow sense (computer crime): Any illegal behavior directed by means of electronic operations that targets the security of computer systems and the data processed by them.[xii]

Cybercrime in a broader sense (computer-related crime):

  • Any illegal behavior committed by means of, or in relation to, a computer system or network, including such crimes as illegal possession and offering or distributing information by means of a computer system or network.
  • Any contract for the sale or conveyance of immovable property or any interest in such property;
  • Any such class of documents or transactions as may be notified by the Central Government Confidential.

CLASSIFICATION OF CYBER OFFENCES

The increased rate of technology in computers has led to the enactment of Information Technology Act 2000. The converting of the paperwork into electronic records, the storage of the electronic data, has tremendously changed the scenario of the country.[xiii]

Offenses: Cyber offenses are the unlawful acts which are carried in a very sophisticated manner in which either the computer is the tool or target or both. Cybercrime usually includes:

(a) Unauthorized access of the computers (b) Data diddling (c) Virus/worms attack (d) Theft of computer system (e) Hacking (f) Denial of attacks (g) Logic bombs (h) Trojan attacks (i) Internet time theft (j) Web jacking (k) Email bombing  (l) Salami attacks (m) Physically damaging computer system.

The offenses included in the IT Act 2000 are as follows[xiv]:

  1. Tampering with the computer source documents.
  2. Hacking with computer system.
  3. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form.
  4. Power of Controller to give directions
  5. Directions of Controller to a subscriber to extend facilities to decrypt information
  6. Protected system
  7. Penalty for misrepresentation
  8. Penalty for breach of confidentiality and privacy
  9. Penalty for publishing Digital Signature Certificate false in certain particulars
  10. Publication for fraudulent purpose
  11. Act to apply for offense or contravention committed outside India
  12. Confiscation
  13. Penalties or confiscation not to interfere with other punishments.
  14. Power to investigate offenses.

Offenses UNDER THE IT ACT, 2000

1. Tampering with computer source documents:

Section 65 of this Act provides that Whoever knowingly or intentionally conceals, destroys or alters or intentionally or knowingly causes another to conceal, destroy or alter any computer source code used for a computer, computer Programme, computer system or computer network, when the computer source code is required to be kept or maintained by law for the being time in force, shall be punishable with imprisonment up to three year, or with fine which may extend up to two lakh rupees, or with both.

Explanation: 

For the purpose of this section “computer source code” means the listing of programmes, computer commands, design and layout and programme analysis of computer resource in any form.

Object:

The object of the section is to protect the “intellectual property” invested in the computer. It is an attempt to protect the computer source documents (codes) beyond what is available under the Copyright Law.

This section extends towards the Copyright Act and helps the companies to protect the source code of their programmes.

Section 65 is tried by any magistrate. This is cognizable and non- bailable offense.

Imprisonment up to 3 years and or Fine up to Two lakh rupees.

CASE LAWS

Frios v. State of Kerela[xvi]:

Facts: In this case, it was declared that the FRIENDS application software as a protected system. The author of the application challenged the notification and the constitutional validity of software under Section 70. The court upheld the validity of both.
It included tampering with source code. Computer source code the electronic form, it can be printed on paper.

Held: The court held that Tampering with Source code is punishable with three years jail and or two lakh rupees fine of rupees two lakh rupees for altering, concealing and destroying the source code.

Syed Asifuddin case[xvii]:

Facts: In this case, the Tata Indicom employees were arrested for manipulation of the electronic 32- bit number (ESN) programmed into cell phones theft were exclusively franchised to Reliance Infocom.
Held: Court held that Tampering with source code invokes Section 65 of the Information Technology Act.

Parliament Attack Case:

Facts: In this case, several terrorists attacked Parliament House on 13 December 2001. In this Case, the Digital evidence played an important role during their prosecution. The accused argued that computers and evidence can easily be tampered and hence, should not be relied.
In Parliament case, several smart device storage disks and devices, a Laptop was recovered from the truck intercepted at Srinagar pursuant to information given by two suspects. The laptop included the evidence of fake identity cards, video files containing clips of the political leaders with the background of Parliament in the background shot from T.V news channels. In this case design of Ministry of Home Affairs car sticker, there was game “wolf pack” with user name of ‘Ashiq’, there was the name in one of the fake identity cards used by the terrorist. No back up was taken. Therefore, it was challenged in the Court.

Held: Challenges to the accuracy of computer evidence should be established by the challenger. Mere theoretical and generic doubts cannot be cast on the evidence.

2. Hacking with the computer system:

Section 66 provides that-  (1) Whoever with the intent to cause or knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or damage to the public or any person destroys or deletes or alters any information residing in a computer resource or diminishes its value or utility or affects it injuriously by any means, commits hacking.

(2) Whoever commits hacking shall be punished with imprisonment up to three years, or with fine which may extend up to two lakh rupees, or with both.

Explanation: The section tells about the hacking activity.

Punishment: Imprisoned up to three years and fine which may extend up to two lakh rupees Or with both.

CASE LAWS

R v. Gold & Schifreen[xviii]:

In this case, it is observed that the accused gained access to the British telecom Prestl Gold computers networks file amount to dishonest trick and not a criminal offense.

R v. Whiteley[xix]:

In this case, the accused gained unauthorized access to the Joint Academic Network (JANET) and deleted, added files and changed the passwords to deny access to the authorized users.
The perspective of the section does not merely protect the information but to protect the integrity and security of computer resources from attacks by unauthorized person seeking to enter such resource, whatever may be the intention or motive.

Cases Reported In India:

Official website of Maharastra government hacked. The official website of the government of Maharashtra was hacked by Hackers Cool Al- Jazeera, and claimed them they were from Saudi Arabia.

3. Publishing of obscene information in electronic form:

Section 67 of this Act provides that Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstance, to read see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

CASE LAWS:

The State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Katti.

Facts: This case is about posting obscene, defamatory and annoying message about a divorcee woman in the Yahoo message group. E-mails were forwarded to the victim for information by the accused through a false e-mail account opened by him in the name of the victim. These postings resulted in annoying phone calls to the lady. Based on the complaint police nabbed the accused. He was a known family friend of the victim and was interested in marrying her. She married to another person, but that marriage ended in divorce and the accused started contacting her once again. And her reluctance to marry him he started harassing her through the internet.[xx]

Held: The accused is found guilty of offenses under section 469, 509 IPC and 67 of the IT Act 2000 and the accused is convicted and is sentenced for the offense to undergo RI for 2 years under 469 IPC and to pay fine of Rs.500/-and for the offense u/s 509 IPC sentenced to undergo 1 year Simple imprisonment and to pay fine of Rs.500/- and for the offense u/s 67 of IT Act 2000 to undergo RI for 2 years and to pay fine of Rs.4000/- All sentences to run concurrently.”

The accused paid fine amount and he was lodged at Central Prison, Chennai. This is considered the first case convicted under section 67 of Information Technology Act 2000 in India.

In a recent case, a groom’s family received numerous emails containing defamatory information about the prospective bride. Fortunately, they did not believe the emails and chose to take the matter to the police. The sender of the emails turned out to be the girl’s step-father, who did not want the girl to get married, as he would have lost control over her property, of which he was the legal guardian.

Avnish Bajaj (CEO of bazzee.com – now a part of the eBay group of companies) case.

Facts: There were three accused first is the Delhi schoolboy and IIT Kharagpur Ravi Raj and the service provider Avnish Bajaj.

The law on the subject is very clear. The sections slapped on the three accused were Section 292 (sale, distribution, public exhibition, etc., of an obscene object) and Section 294 (obscene acts, songs, etc., in a public place) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and Section 67 (publishing information which is obscene in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act 2000. In addition, the schoolboy faces a charge under Section 201 of the IPC (destruction of evidence), for there is apprehension that he had destroyed the mobile phone that he used in the episode. These offenses invite a stiff penalty, namely, imprisonment ranging from two to five years, in the case of a first-time conviction, and/or fines.

Held: In this case, the Service provider Avnish Bajaj was later acquitted and the Delhi schoolboy was granted bail by Juvenile Justice Board and was taken into police charge and detained into Observation Home for two days.

4. Power of Controller to give directions:

Section 68 of this Act provides that (1) The Controller may, by order, direct a Certifying Authority or any employee of such Authority to take such measures or cease carrying on such activities as specified in the order if those are necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Act, rules or any regulations made thereunder.

(2) Any person who fails to comply with any order under sub-section (1) shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to a fine not exceeding two lakh rupees or to both.

Explanation: Any person who fails to comply with any order under subsection (1) of the above section, shall be guilty of an offense and shall be convicted for a term not less than three years or to a fine exceeding two lakh rupees or to both.

The offense under this section is non-bailable & cognizable.

Punishment: Imprisonment up to a term not exceeding three years or fine not exceeding two lakh rupees.

5. Directions of Controller to a subscriber to extend facilities to decrypt information:

Section 69  provides that-  (1) If the Controller is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense; for reasons to be recorded in writing, by order, direct any agency of the Government to intercept any information transmitted through any computer resource.

(2) The subscriber or any person in charge of the computer resource shall, when called upon by any agency which has been directed under sub-section (1), extend all facilities and technical assistance to decrypt the information.

(3) The subscriber or any person who fails to assist the agency referred to in subsection shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years.
Punishment: Imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years. The offense is cognizable and non- bailable.

6. Protected System:

Section 70 of this Act provides that –

(1) The appropriate Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare that any computer, computer system or computer network to be a protected system.
(2) The appropriate Government may, by order in writing, authorize the persons who are authorized to access protected systems notified under sub-section (1).
(3) Any person who secures access or attempts to secure access to a protected system in contravention of the provision of this section shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanation: This section grants the power to the appropriate government to declare any computer, computer system or computer network, to be a protected system. Only authorized person has the right to access to protected system.

Punishment: The imprisonment which may extend to ten years and fine.

7. Penalty for misrepresentation:

Section 71 provides that- (1) Whoever makes any misrepresentation to, or suppresses any material fact from, the Controller or the Certifying Authority for obtaining any license or Digital Signature Certificate, as the case may be, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or which fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.

Punishment: Imprisonment which may extend to two years or fine may extend to one lakh rupees or with both.

8. Penalty for breach of confidentiality and privacy:

Section 72 provides that- Save as otherwise provide in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, any person who, in pursuance of any of the powers conferred under this Act, rules or regulation made thereunder, has secured assess to any electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material without the consent of the person concerned discloses such material to any other person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.

Explanation: This section relates to any person who in pursuance of any of the powers conferred by the Act or it allied rules and regulations have secured access to any: Electronic record, books, register, correspondence, information, document, or other material.

If such a person discloses such information, he will be punished. It would not apply to disclosure of personal information of a person by a website, by his email service provider.

Punishment: Term which may extend to two years or fine up to one lakh rupees or with both.

9. Penalty for publishing Digital Signature Certificate false in certain particulars:

Section 73 provides that – (1) No person shall publish a Digital Signature Certificate or otherwise make it available to any other person with the knowledge that-

(a) The Certifying Authority listed in the certificate has not issued it; or
(b) The subscriber listed in the certificate has not accepted it; or
(c) The certificate has been revoked or suspended unless such publication is for the purpose of verifying a digital signature created prior to such suspension or revocation.
(2) Any person who contravenes the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.

Explanation: The Certifying Authority listed in the certificate has not issued it or, The subscriber listed in the certificate has not accepted it or the certificate has been revoked or suspended.

The Certifying authority may also suspend the Digital Signature Certificate if it is of the opinion that the digital signature certificate should be suspended in public interest.

A digital signature may not be revoked unless the subscriber has been given opportunity of being heard in the matter. On revocation, the Certifying Authority need to communicate the same with the subscriber. Such publication is not an offense it is the purpose of verifying a digital signature created prior to such suspension or revocation.

Punishment:  Imprisonment of a term of which may extend to two Years or fine may extend to 1 lakh rupees or with both.

CASE LAWS:

Bennett Coleman & Co. v. Union of India[xxi]

In this case, the publication has been stated that ‘publication means dissemination and circulation’. In the context of the digital medium, the term publication includes and transmission of information or data in electronic form.

10. Publication for fraudulent purpose:

Section 74 provides that- Whoever knowingly creates, publishes or otherwise makes available a Digital Signature Certificate for any fraudulent or unlawful purpose shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which extends to one lakh rupees, or with both.

Explanation: This section prescribes punishment for the following acts:

Knowingly creating a digital signature certificate for any

  1. fraudulent purpose or,
  2. unlawful purpose.

Knowingly publishing a digital signature certificate for any

  1. fraudulent purpose or
  2. unlawful purpose

Knowingly making available a digital signature certificate for any

  1. fraudulent purpose or
  2. unlawful purpose.

Punishment: Imprisonment for a term up to two years or fine up to one lakh or both.

11. Act to apply for offense or contravention committed outside India:

Section 75 provides that-  (1) Subject to the provisions of sub-section (2), the provisions of this Act shall apply also to any offense or contravention committed outside India by any person irrespective of his nationality.

For the purposes of sub-section (1), this Act shall apply to an offense or
Contravention committed outside India by any person if the act or conduct constituting the offense or contravention involves a computer, computer system or computer network located in India.

Explanation: This section has a broader perspective including cyber crime, committed by cyber criminals, of any nationality, any territoriality.

CASE LAW:

R v. Governor of Brixton prison and another[xxii]

Facts: In this case the Citibank faced the wrath of a hacker on its cash management system, resulting in illegal transfer of funds from customers account into the accounts of the hacker, later identified as Valdimer Levin and his accomplices. After Levin was arrested he was extradited to the United States. One of the most important issues was the jurisdictional issue, the ‘place of origin’ of cyber crime.

Held: The Court held that the real-time nature of the communication link between Levin and Citibank computer meant that Levin’s keystrokes were actually occurring on the Citibank computer. It is thus important that in order to resolve the disputes related to jurisdiction, the issue of territoriality and nationality must be placed by much broader criteria embracing principles of reasonableness and fairness to accommodate overlapping or conflicting interests of states, in spirit of universal jurisdiction.

12. Confiscation:

Section 76 provides that-  Any computer, computer system, floppies, compact disks, tape drives or any other accessories related thereto, in respect of which any provisions of this Act, rules, orders or regulations made thereunder has been or is being contravened, shall be liable to confiscation. :

Provided that where it is established to the satisfaction of the court adjudicating the confiscation that the person in whose possession, power or control of any such computer, computer system, floppies, compact disks, tape drives or any other accessories relating thereto is found is not responsible for the contravention of the provisions of this Act, rules orders or regulations made thereunder, the court may, instead of making an order for confiscation of such computer, computer system, floppies, compact disks, tape drives or any other accessories related thereto, make such other order authorized by this Act against the person contravening of the provisions of this Act, rules, orders or regulations made thereunder as it may think fit.

Explanation: The aforesaid section highlights that all devices whether computer, computer system, floppies, compact disks, tape drives or any other storage, communication, input or output device which helped in the contravention of any provision of this Act, rules, orders, or regulations made under there under liable to be confiscated.

13. Penalties or confiscation not to interfere with other punishments:

Section 77 provides that –  No penalty imposed or confiscation made under this Act shall prevent the imposition of any other punishment to which the person affected thereby is liable under any other law for the time being in force.

Explanation: The aforesaid section lays down a mandatory condition, which states the Penalties or confiscation not to interfere with other punishments to which the person affected thereby is liable under any other law for the time being in force.

Power to investigate offenses:

Section 78 provides that – Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, a police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police shall investigate any offense under this Act.

CONCLUSION

Due to the increase in digital technology, various offenses are increasing day by day. Therefore, the IT Act 2000 need to be amended in order to include those offenses which are now not included in the Act.  In India, cybercrime is not of high rate. Therefore, we have time in order to tighten the cyber laws and include the offenses which are now not included in the IT Act 2000.[xxiii]

Since the beginning of civilization, man has always been motivated by the need to make progress and better the existing technologies. This has led to tremendous development and progress which has been a launching pad for further developments. Of all the significant advances made by mankind from the beginning to date, probably the most important of them is the development of the Internet.

However, the rapid evolution of the Internet has also raised numerous legal issues and questions. As the scenario continues to be still not clear, countries throughout the world are resorting to different approaches towards controlling, regulating and facilitating electronic communication and commerce.

Formatted on 1st March 2019.

Footnotes

[i] http://www.mit.gov.in. last visited on 14-08-2014

[ii] http://www.uncitral.org/english/texts/electrcom/ last visited on 16-08-2014

[iii] http://www.mit.gov.in/about.htm. last visited on 16-08-2014

[iv] Moore, R. (2005) “Cyber crime: Investigating High-Technology Computer Crime,” Cleveland, Mississippi: Anderson Publishing.

[v] Warren G. Kruse, Jay G. Heiser (2002). Computer forensics: incident response essentials. Addison-Wesley. p. 392. ISBN 0-201-70719-5.

[vi] David Mann And Mike Sutton (2011-11-06). “Netcrime”. Bjc.oxfordjournals.org. Retrieved 2011-11-10.

[vii] Halder, D., & Jaishankar, K. (2011) Cyber crime and the Victimization of Women: Laws, Rights, and Regulations. Hershey, PA, USA: IGI Global. ISBN 978-1-60960-830-9

[viii] Internet Security Systems. March-2005.

[ix]  “Cyber Warfare And The Crime Of Aggression: The Need For Individual Accountability On Tomorrow’S Battlefield”. Law.duke.edu. Retrieved 2011-11-10.

[x] “Cyber crime costs global economy $445 billion a year: report”. Reuters. 2014-06-09. Retrieved 2014-06-17.

[xi] http://www.csi-india.org last visited on 15-08-2014

[xii] http://www.cyberlawsindia.net/internet-crime.html last visited on 10-08-2014

[xiii] http://www.legalservicesindia.com last visited on 12-09-2014

[xiv] Ibid

[xv] http://www.mpcyberpolice.nic.in last visited on 17-09-2014

[xvi] AIR 2006 Ker 279, 2006 (3) KLT 210, 2007 (34) PTC 98 Ker.

[xvii]  2005 CriLJ4314

[xviii] [1988] 2 WLR 984

[xix] [1991] 93 cr App rep 25

[xx] http://cyber-law-web.blogspot.in/2009/07/case-study-cyber-law-state-of-tamil.html last visited on 28-08-2014

[xxi]AIR 1973 SC 106

[xxii] [1969] 2 QB 222, [1969] 2 All ER 347, [1969] 2 WLR 618, 133 JP 407

[xxiii] http://www.cyberlawsindia.net/internet-crime.html last visited on 10-09-2014

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *