Alarmed by breadth and reach of cyber criminals, police chief sends proposal to home department seeking stringent revisions, as existing laws are toothless
Cybercrimes should be dealt with under a separate law with provisions for stringent action. This is the crux of a proposal sent by Mumbai Commissioner of Police (CP) Sanjay Pandey to the state home ministry. Jolted by a series of mid-day reports on the harassment of borrowers of loan apps, state home minister Dilip Walse Patil talked of amending the law last week. Pandey has been a staunch advocate of a new cybercrime law for a long time.
Pandey told mid-day, “There is no law to deal with the cybercrime cases and fraudsters are taking advantage of the same. The provisions made in the existing law are not enough to deal with such cases and take stringent action. I have sent a proposal to the government explaining the need for a cybercrime act.”
This newspaper has been consistently highlighting the dark side of cybercrimes, particularly by loan apps
Ever since he took charge as the city’s police chief, Pandey has been vocal about the need for new legislation to handle crimes emanating from the online world. During a meeting with journalists at Mumbai Press Club in March, Pandey had said, “I am a computer engineer and when talking about cybercrimes, there is some basic problem because we don’t have a separate act to deal with cyber offences except a few sections of the IT Act. And there is no data protection act like other countries have already made comprehensive laws to deal with cyber offences.”
“Cyber offences are emerging as one of the biggest challenges not only for us but also for the entire world. To deal with it, we need to make some serious changes in the law and the way investigations are being handled,” he told mid-day on Monday, adding, “I have been raising since long about the need for a cybercrime act, at various platforms.”
The top cop also highlighted another challenge his force is facing in cybercrime investigation, which is done by cops in the rank of police inspectors. “There are only a few PI rank officers and everyone cannot be deployed for cyber investigation. The police sub-inspectors (PSI) who are young and know more about today’s cybercrimes should be allowed to carry out probes,” Pandey said.
Police chief Pandey speaks on cyber security at the Indian Merchants Chamber, Churchgate, on April 4. File pic
In its proposal, the police department has cited the example of PI-rank officers being roped in to crack cybercrime cases, which were initially handled by ACP-rank officers, after cases started rising.
In 2019, the Intelligence Bureau had called for a meeting to discuss the menace of these new-age crimes where the Mumbai police had made a similar proposal. “Apart from the cyber cell, we need a dedicated team of young officers, who are more enthusiastic and want to learn new challenges of the cyber world,” a senior officer said. “When these officers get transferred from one place to another, we need to ensure that they are part of the cyber team only.”
As per Mumbai police data released in January, there were 1,032 posts for PI-rank officers, but the force had only 796 such staffers. The sanctioned headcount for PSI-rank officers is 3,279.
‘No need for a new law’
Advocate (Dr.) Prashant Mali, who specialises in cyber laws, said, “There is no need for a new law, the existing law is enough. The police only need will and motivation to implement it. Currently, the implementation is poor. Cybercrime offences are registered easily and the conviction rate is ultra-poor, which is one of the reasons why the number of cases is rising.” He added, “There is also a need for a specialised cyber cadre in the state and the officers should be recruited from different fields such as engineering, charted accountancy and company secretary. The recruitment should be on the basis of their expertise and capabilities to deal with cyber offences and not based on their physical appearance.”
‘Even if the victim reaches within the golden hour, he doesn’t get immediate support. The issue is not about lack of laws but lack of coordination amongst social media platforms, banks, payment aggregators and the police,” said Ritesh Bhatia, founding director, V4WEB cybersecurity.