New Delhi: There was a 6% rise in the number of cybercrime incidents recorded in 2016, as compared to the previous year, with Uttar Pradesh recording the maximum number of cases.Experts that News18 spoke to have, however, weighed in on the numbers put forth by the agency. While they acknowledged the trend of rising incidence of crime, they also raised doubts on how the agency arrived at these numbers.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released its annual crime data last week and according to it, there were about 12,317 cybercrime cases in 2016. This is a 6% rise as compared to 2015.
Uttar Pradesh, with 2,639 cases reported the highest number of cases of cybercrime accounting for 21.4% of the total, followed by Maharashtra with 19.3% or 2,380 cases and Karnataka with 8.9% or 1,101 cases in 2016.
However, experts say about 90% of cybercrime cases go unreported.
Recording Cyber Crimes
Earlier this year, a 26-year-old woman walked into Delhi Police’s cyber cell to report a fake profile of hers on a dating/hook-up website. The case resulted in a complaint, but not an FIR. The case was eventually closed after the social networking site refused to divulge details of the accused persons to the police.
For the woman, she was glad that her complaint was lodged and properly looked into, as she was told by the police officials. In layman terms and as per the laws of the country, this amounts to a cyber case. However, chances of the case counting among number of cases mentioned in the National Crime Records Bureau data are bleak.
The NCRB relies on police records, which in turn categorises a case as a cybercrime incident only if there was an FIR.
Kislay Chaudhary, a cyber security expert said FIRs make all the difference for a case of cybercrime to be counted in the NCRB data.
“This doesn’t show the real picture. The fault lines are at various levels, starting from how the crime is reported and taken forward,” Chaudhary said.
Chaudhary added that over the past year, he has received over 20,000 calls seeking help for various cyber issues.
“Many of these complainants may have gone to the police but could never file an FIR, thus taking the NCRB data at much lesser numbers,” he added.
Leading cyber lawyer and Supreme Court advocate Pavan Duggal seconded Chaudhary’s concerns and said that most of the times the police would not record the complaint at all as they do not know how to deal with it or investigate.
“There is a huge need for capacity building. Police force in the country does not know how to deal with a cybercrime nor does it have the necessary knowhow of the laws. They are not well-equipped to handle these cases, which often leads to under reporting,” he added.
Duggal further said that the accused, at times, have often been traced to foreign territories, which again falls beyond the realm of the Indian police authority, thus further cementing their lackadaisical attitude in solving a cyber case.
Apprehension in Taking Case Forward
Chaudhary gave an example of a young Vaishali-based resident who approached the police with a complaint regarding her social media profile. The police, in turn, told her registering an FIR would mean involving her parents too.
“Nowhere in the law does it say that an FIR amounts to the complainant’s family being involved. But the girl was told this and she got scared. Women want to ensure their identities are guarded, but sadly the authorities do very little to assure them that,” said Chaudhary.
For many complainants, he added, the immediate step is to get primary relief like getting the fake Instagram account deleted or get their morphed image removed from Facebook.
“Not many want to get to the bottom of the case, which is a big deterrent in recording of cybercrimes,” he said.
Duggal added that about 90% of the cases go unreported.
“Of the 10% that are reported, only 1% or less translates into a FIR. Now, that miniscule percentage can’t be symbolic of the whole problem,” he said, adding that he has been dealing with cases on a regular basis and that there is no way that the NCRB data shows what the true picture is. “The situation is far worse,” he said.