The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Logged out of cyber-crime
Conviction rate poor as tech agencies denied prosecution role

New-age cases are shaking up the age-old judicial system like never before.

More than a hundred computer and Internet-related cases have come up before the city’s lower courts and at least one has reached Calcutta High Court. But, in most cases, the “guilty” have got away due to the absence of any clearly-defined law to deal with them.

There is a lot of confusion over the existing Information Technology Act, admits state advocate-general Balai Ray. “Opinion is divided over many of the clauses, and the rules, as they exist now, do leave a lot of scope for confusion,” he adds. As a result, many offenders who should be behind bars have walked free.

Legal circles feel the “very poor rate of conviction” in cases involving cyber-crime can be thus explained — while the court can engage agencies other than the police, like forensic laboratories and finger-print bureaux, for conventional cases of murder and theft, it is not allowed to consult other agencies while dealing with new-age crime.

“Using the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd or Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), both of which have the requisite infrastructure, would have helped in more convictions,” believes Balai Ray.

Take the example of a case filed by a husband, who alleged that his wife was having “virtual sex” with a man based in Dubai. The Alipore sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s court accepted the explanation offered by the legal team of the defendant that there was no legal provision allowing the court to deal with such a case. The court quashed the case, forcing the complainant to move Calcutta High Court.

Another case, which has recently come to the high court, has been filed by a college student against his classmate. The complaint: the classmate had managed to crack the password to his mailbox and was using his username to operate his own account. Legal opinion is divided on whether the prosecution — with the help of the police — can prove the “crime”.

Till computer experts are used in the process, the defence can exploit the lack of hi-tech expertise among the police, says a section of the legal community.

“The police can do without our help for the less complex cases that do not require too much expertise,” a senior BSNL official said. “But for cases where the police are technically inadequate, the court should allow BSNL and other such agencies to play a part.”

To date, the findings of BSNL or a similar agency are not accepted as evidence in a court of law. But for how long will they not be allowed to log in'

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