Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT) is an important judicial authority in India as it happens to the sole appellate authority for all the Adjudicating officers established in India (one in each State and Union Territory) as well as the Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA). At present there are several cases pending at CAT including a few on which judgements have been reserved. There are another 20 odd cases in different Adjudicating offices which potentially may be referred tot he CAT on appeal. Additionally, the proposed new Bill for Privacy Protection which is expected to be placed in the Parliament during the next session has named the same CAT as the appellate authority under that Act also.

The criticality of the CAT as a pivot for delivering justice to all contraventions coming under Information Technology Act 2000 is well known.

CAT is headed by a Presiding Officer/Chair Person appointed by the Ministry of Communications and Technology in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. The Chairperson has to be necessarily a person who is qualified to be a Judge of a High Court in India.

The first Presiding officer of CAT was Honourable Justice Sri R.C.Jain formerly of the Delhi High Court who was appointed on October 4 2006. After his retirement, honourable Justice  Sri Rajesh Tandon formerly of the Uttarakhand High Court assumed office from February 25, 2009.

The term of the current Presiding officer of Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT), Justice Sri Rajesh Tandon expired yesterday the 30th June 2011 due to his attaining the age of superannuation. Though the contractual term of the appointment of Sri Rajesh Tandon is yet to expire, the rule of super annuation has intervened to cut short his tenure.

Unfortunately, the Government does not appear to have taken timely action either to appoint a substitute in place of Sri Tandon or to extend his term before his term expired.

As a result CAT will technically be closed from today until a new incumbent assumes office.

In the mean time the fate of pending cases is unknown. There are a few cases in which the judgment is reserved and hopefully the new incumbent would deliver the judgment after he takes over.

The website of CAT as of July 01, 2011 however still shows that Sri Rajesh Tandon is the Presiding officer. The site is perhaps not updated and needs correction. [In the meantime it may also be pointed out that the CCA site shows information about CAT which is incorrect and needs to be corrected. This site states that “Cyber Appellate Tribunal  has been established under the aegis of the Controller of Certifying Authorities” (CCA).  The correct fact is that CCA is subordinate to CAT. CAT is the appellate authority to CCA. This also needs correction] . (Please see screenshots here)

CAT is a statutory body and administrative support is provided by the MCIT. The appointment of the Presiding Officer is done by the MCIT but in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. During the last one month, Naavi has drawn the attention of the MCIT, the President of India as well as the Chief Justice of India that non appointment of a Presiding officer before 30th of June 2011 would result in a judicial void in delivery of Cyber Crime related justice. However the preoccupations of the MCIT perhaps have prevented any final decision in the matter.

We hope a suitable decision will be taken at the earliest and the void will not remain for long.

In the meantime Naavi.org records its good wishes the outgoing as well as the incoming Presiding Officer.

Naavi

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