Computer and Internet are being used every day by billions of people around the globe. For example, on June 30, 2010 nearly 197 crore of people used the Internet, which works out to 28.7 per cent. of the world population.
The penetration of the Internet grows at a rapid rate even in underdeveloped countries. Almost all financial, industrial, and commercial institutions make use of the Internet for their regular work. Any area involving heavy monetary transactions is a fertile ground for criminals.
Appropriate steps have to be evolved and implemented for the prevention of crimes and the punishment of the criminals through due legal processes. This emphasises the relevance of cyber law.
Cyber crimes have unique features distinct from those of traditional styles of crimes. The criminals aim not only at swindling money, but they also cast their nets far and wide. Cyber crimes include offences including theft of data, copyright violation, IPR violation, online transfer of bank deposits by fraud, forgery, identity theft, unauthorised access to computers, DoS attack (denial-of-service attack), hacking, stalking, sending offensive or pornographic material through e-mail, defamation, illegal gathering and dissemination of information through Internet, e-mail spamming, damaging computer programs through illegal access, computer sabotage, spreading computer viruses, computer espionage, fraudulent e-commerce activities and cyber terrorism.
Cyber law is one area where IT professionals and legal experts have to work in tandem to protect users, empower enforcement agencies, and punish offenders. Crime investigation has to be supported by technically trained IT experts. Knowledge is the most vital aspect in unearthing cyber crimes. Lawyers unable to handle electronic documents can do precious little in this field.
There has been legislation bringing forth regulation of information technology activities in many States. Since cyber crimes would cross national boundaries, the evidence gathered and processed will have to stand the judicial scrutiny at the international level.
The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, is a landmark document in cyber regulations in the country. The Act provides, among other things, "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."
Lawyers have to be conversant with the latest IT technologies which cyber criminals regularly adopt. There are special training programmes in cyber crime investigation for police officers at the State and national levels. There has to be specialist lawyers handling cyber crime cases. Members of the Bench should also get enlightened on the latest tactics of cyber criminals.
The tie-up between technology and law has been described by the NALSAR University of Law in a telling style: "In the ambit of technology and law, law has always been at the curve of the highway chasing the developments of technology and ends often issuing violation tickets. Law needs to provide a road map to technology with appropriate signals and speed breakers for its safe driving."
There is rise in cyber crimes; but lack of prompt reporting keeps many offenders in the dark. As in many other types of crimes, conviction rate is very low in cyber crimes for various reasons. Users often develop a false sense of cyber security cover and consequently an attitude of complacency that may land them in serious trouble.
Avenues for Learning Cyber Law
Courses in cyber law cover areas including the following:
- Computer crimes
- Computer networks
- Cyber contracts and Indian legal position
- Data protection and privacy
- e-banking and legal issues
- Electronic and digital signatures
- Electronic contracts
- Indian Penal law and cyber crimes
- Intellectual Property
- International taxation in e-commerce
- Internet operations
- Investigation of cyber crimes
- Issues of internet governance
- Jurisdiction of cyber space
- Legal issues in internet copyrights
- Security and evidence in e-commerce
- Taxation issues in cyber space
- Telecommunications laws
- Understanding cyber crimes
Institutions and Programmes
NALSAR Proximate Education, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad , offers one-year postgraduate diploma in cyber law. The programme has been designed to meet the requirements of professionals in the fields of science, technology, media and human rights. In the distance mode, the university offers contact seminar classes during weekends at different centres including Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi.
The Indian Law Institute , New Delhi offers courses for those who have passed their diploma courses afters Plus Two. Areas such as cyber world, regulatory framework, cyber crimes and e-commerce are covered in the programme.
The Indian Institute of Information Technology , Allahabad , offers two-year long Master of Science in cyber law and information security.
Asian School of Cyber Laws, Pune, offers the following courses:
- Postgraduate programme in cyber law
- Postgraduate programme in cyber crime investigation and defence
- Diploma in cyber law
- Advanced programme in international cyber law.
Naavi's Cyber Law College, Bangalore, offers diploma course in cyber laws. The Course is offered online. Duration of The Course is six months.
Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi, offers postgraduate certificate in cyber law. The course is offered through two modes - virtual education in law and open distance learning.
There are other universities like the University of Hyderabad (postgraduate diploma in cyber laws and Intellectual Property Rights), and Bharati Vidyapeeth (Deemed University), Pune, (Diploma in Cyber Laws) which conduct programmes either through distance education or through face-to-face classes.