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Cyber Appellate Tribunal in India: An Examination of Its Powers and Functions

Introduction

In India, the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT) serves as a specialized legal body instituted for resolving disputes related to violations of cyber laws, specifically those under the Information Technology Act, 2000. Created under Section 48 of the IT Act, the CAT plays a crucial role in administering and dispensing justice in the cyber world.



Composition of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal

As per Section 50 of the IT Act, the CAT consists of a Chairperson and several other members as the central government deems necessary. The Chairperson is required to be a person who has been, or is qualified to be, a judge of a High Court. Other members must have a demonstrable special knowledge and professional experience of at least ten years in areas such as information technology, data protection, or cyber security.



Jurisdiction of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal

The jurisdiction of the CAT is determined by Section 58 of the IT Act. According to this section, the CAT has the power to adjudicate any disputes or contraventions that arise under the IT Act, involving issues related to the use of digital signatures, electronic records, and secure electronic records. It can also resolve disagreements between the parties about the appointment of an adjudicating officer, who is empowered to conduct inquiries related to cyber law violations.



Powers and Functions of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal

The Cyber Appellate Tribunal powers and functions, are as follows:

  1. Adjudicatory Powers: The CAT can hear and determine appeals against any decision or order made by the Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) or the Adjudicating Officer under the IT Act.

  2. Regulatory Powers: The CAT can regulate its own procedures including the place, time, and mode of hearing.

  3. Investigatory Powers: As per Section 64 of the IT Act, the CAT has powers to investigate into the matters of contraventions of the IT Act, and to summon and enforce the attendance of any person, examining him on oath.

  4. Power to pass Interim Orders: According to Section 57, the CAT has the power to pass such interim orders in any proceedings, appeal or matter before it, as it considers appropriate.

  5. Civil Court Powers: Under Section 58, the CAT also enjoys powers akin to that of a civil court, such as summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person, compelling the discovery and production of documents, and receiving evidence on affidavits.


Relevant Case Laws Pertaining to CAT

The powers and scope of the CAT have been further elucidated through various case laws:

  1. Smt. Lily Thomas vs Union Of India & Ors: This landmark case recognized the jurisdiction of the CAT in cybercrime cases, reinforcing its role in maintaining cybersecurity in India.

  2. Ankur Chawla Vs. CBI, Delhi: In this case, it was held that the CAT, having the powers of a civil court, can adjudicate matters relating to compensation for losses due to a cybercrime.


Conclusion

In essence, the Cyber Appellate Tribunal forms a crucial part of India's legal response to cybersecurity threats, offering a robust mechanism to adjudicate cyber-related disputes. Its powers and functions are akin to those of a civil court, and it plays a critical role in ensuring the fair application of laws under the IT Act, 2000. By addressing the unique challenges posed by cybercrimes, the CAT significantly contributes to maintaining the security and integrity of India's digital space.

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