ITA 2000/8 envisaged that the dispute resolution mechanism under the Act would be a model judiciary system  and render quick and economic justice to public who are victims of Cyber Crimes.

It therefore  provided the power of a civil court to the Adjudication officer (AO) and the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT) but  stated categorically that these institutions would not be bound by the Civil Procedure Code.

It was also stated that the AO or the Presiding Officer of CAT would device their own systems and procedures with “Principles of Natural Justice” being the prime consideration.

CAT has also been provided the freedom to sit “Anywhere in India” and also set up regional benches if required.

The procedures also donot prohibit non advocates from representing the victims.

All these steps were suggested so that Cyber Judiciary system does not get bogged down by the same problems which the civil judiciary in the Country is bogged down with.

Presently several Adjudication and Appeal cases are running in AOs office in Chennai and the CAT office in Delhi. It is necessary for all those who are interested in judicial reforms in India to study how the innovative legal prescriptions of ITA 2000/8 are playing out in practice.

As an example we can review the proceedings that happenned in a CAT sitting in Chennai today.  This special sitting was organized by CAT so that the victims who come from this region need not travel to Delhi for the hearing and thereby reduce their costs.

CAT scheduled hearing in respect of  three cases,  one of ICICI Bank and two of Punjab National Bank. The presiding officer of CAT had travelled all the way from Delhi to be present in the sitting and the Madras High Court had made special arrangements at the Judicial Academy premises to hold the sitting. This was only the second sitting held by CAT outside Delhi and was a momentous occassion where the Court had come to the doors of the victims to render justice.

However what turned out was an anticlimax with all three cases getting adjourned without debate since the advocates representing the Banks decided not to be present in the hearing. They sent their representatives to plead for adjournment because  they were busy with other Courts and hence could not attend CAT.

The advocates had thus rendered the whole exercise of holding a sitting in Chennai futile. These delaying tactics are being used by the advocates of the Bank for last several months and each time they plead they are busy with other courts and with personal work or vacation as if those activities are more important than the CAT hearing. It is disheartening to note that CAT hearings are considerd less important than a personal vacation of an advocate.

In fact I consider that this is a serious contempt of the Cyber Judiciary systems and Courts should not be tolerant of such open abuse of the system.

As a result of the delaying tactics used by the advocates of the two Banks, the dispute resolution is prolonging much beyond what ITA 2000/8 envisaged.

The postponements have indefinitely delayed several cases being heard by the erstwhile Adjudicator of Tamil Nadu who was transferred after the recent change of Government.

The office of the current Presiding officer of CAT is also expiring on 30th of June 2011 and the cases remaining pending on that date in CAT will go into an indefinite limbo.

The advocates of the Banks are rejoicing at their success while the victims of the three cases are seething with frustration on how a well meaning legislation is being rendered meaningless.

Though delays are common in civil courts, if the intention of ITA 2000/8 are to be fulfilled, it is necessary for the Advocate community who represent litigants in the Adjudication and Cyber Appellate Tribunal to forget their dysfunctional practices in the civil courts and make a difference to the Cyber Judiciary system in India.

It appears that the Courts themselves are helpless in the matter since they are likely to be accused of bias if they try to push the advocates to proceed with the case rather than wasting everybody’s time by seeking adjournments.

It is time for the higher echelons of the Government and Judiciary to take a firm corrective stand on such delaying practices indulged in by the advocates and find a solution.

I therefore request the Department of Information Technology (Which supervises the CAT and Adjudication Systems) to take such steps as may be necessary not to let the AOs and CAT be played around with by advocates. If appropraite action is not taken immediately, the AOs and CAT will become another dumping ground of cases. As cases keep building up,  victims will lose faith in the Cyber Judiciary system well formulated by the authors of ITA 2000/8 and the blame will squarely fall on the DIT.

[P.S: The views expressed above are a general observation made in the interest of rendering the system more effective and not limited to the cases of which Naavi is also a victim]

Naavi

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