One of the proposals is to shift jurisdictional area of investigation from location of victim to that of the accused.
NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is working on making the existing laws more stringent to tackle the menace of cybercrime in the country. One of the proposals in discussion is to shift the jurisdictional area of investigation from the location of the victim to that of the accused for faster redressal and accountability.
An officer from the MHA in the know told The Sunday Guardian, “It has come to our notice that the major challenge while prosecuting cyber criminals have been the area of jurisdiction of investigation. The perpetrators of the crime are in a different state, while the victim is in a different state, this leads to delays and operational challenges. The Ministry is discussing changes in the law that would register the complaint of the victim in the state where the crime has taken place and not at the place of the residence of the victim. This would lead to faster action on the ground, and deterrence.”
The officer further explaining the changes said, “Say for example a person who is a resident of Delhi has been defrauded by a group of cyber criminals who are operating from Jamtara, now the person will register the complaint in Delhi and the Delhi Police will start investigation and prosecution. But under the new law the complaint will be forwarded to the local police in Jamtara and case will be registered in that state. The onus of investigation and prosecution will lie with the state where the crime has originated from.”
Presently, the case of cybercrime is registered in the place of residence of the victim and the investigation is carried by the local police of the victim’s state, this leads to wastage of time and money as the investigating officers have to travel to the state of the accused, seek local police’s help to identify and nab the accused.
Several Delhi Police officers that this correspondent spoke to have said that this amendment or change in the law to tackle cybercrime would change the face of how cybercrimes are tackled in the country and for the good, as they have often seen that the local police in the area of the accused are not cooperative to nab the perpetrators of the crime.
One senior Delhi Police officer speaking to The Sunday Guardian said that most of the cybercrime that happens in the capital are traced back to smaller cities and there lies the operational challenges in the prosecution of the accused.
“Most of the cases of cybercrime are carried out from smaller cities and are done by organized groups or gangs. More often we have seen that these groups and gangs are in cahoots with the local politicians and the local police who let them operate with a free hand in lieu of benefits to them. The reason being is that these cybercrime groups are not a law-and-order problem in their jurisdiction as cases against them are not registered in their place of residence, but elsewhere in the country. This leads to a lackadaisical attitude of the local police to stop it or even prosecute them.”
“Moreover, we have also noticed that the local police many a times are not cooperative with the investigating officers that land at their police stations. Sometimes we get to catch the small fishes, but the kingpins are shielded.” The Delhi Police officer added.
After Jamtara, a small residential town near the Haryana and Rajasthan border, Mewat is developing into a cybercrime hotspot, according to Delhi Police officers. Several cybercrime incidents are being reported from this town in Haryana. Since the beginning of January this year, the Haryana police have blocked more than 5 lakh SIM cards that were being used in Mewat for the purpose of cybercrime. Most of these SIM cards were obtained from states like Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal and operated in Mewat.
According to reports from the Haryana police these SIM cards were obtained in a fraudulent manner by using fake documents and used for the purpose of cyber extortions and frauds. The Haryana police also registered more than 2,000 cases since then and arrested over 1000 people who were involved in this racket.
Cybercrime is growing at a rapid pace across the country and according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau, incidents of cybercrime has grown by more than 100% from 2017 to 2021. From a little over 21,000 cases of cybercrime in 2017, the incidences of cybercrime in 2021 grew to almost 53,000 cases in 2021.
However, the rate of conviction in cybercrime is extremely poor, as per the NCRB data, in 2021, less than 1% of cases of cybercrime has led to conviction, while in more than two third of the cases from 2021, a chargesheet has also not been filed.
Officers from the Delhi Police say that the poor rate of conviction in cybercrime cases is due to the weak laws in this area, where securing a bail is very easy and the laws penalizing the cybercrime are poor.
“The laws to penalize cybercrime are very weak in the country. At times bail is given without even a surety. The punishment for cybercrime is also very poor. At many times the judges in the lower courts also have poor understanding of cybercrimes and its laws. The complainants also many times do not pursue the case further and therefore making the cases weak for the prosecution. Stringent laws for cybercrime are the need of the hour, which will deter criminals from engaging in such crimes,” another Delhi Police officer told this newspaper.