Information Technology Act, 2000: Important Definitions 

By | March 18, 2020
Information Technology Act, 2000

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This paper aims at understanding the basics of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and it’s Amendment in 2008. However, the paper will lay focus on §2[1] to understand the definitions provided within the Act.

I. Information Technology Act, 2000

The Information Technology Act of 2000 (hereinafter referred to as the “IT Act”) is the primary law that deals with cybercrime and electronic commerce in India.

It provides legal recognition for transactions that are carried out by means of electronic data interchange. Further, it defines cybercrimes and prescribes specific penalties for the same.

  • Structure of Information Technology Act, 2000 

The 2000 Act has 94 sections that were spread within 13 chapters. Chapter II of the Act provides for the authenticity of a digital signature while Chapter III provides details about electronic governance along with the legal recognition of digital signatures.

Regulation of the certifying authorities is provided for by Chapter IV. Furthermore, penalties and adjudication for offences are provided within Chapter IX. The Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal is governed by Chapter X and the Act also provides for the constitution of the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee.

The Act further proposes to amend the IPC, the Evidence Act, the RBI Act and the Bankers’ Books Evidence Act so as to make them in tune with the provisions of the IT Act. Additionally, the IT Act also has 4 schedules. 

  • Salient Features – Information Technology Act, 2000 

Through the enactment of the Act, all electronic contracts made through secure electronic channels are legally valid. There is also legal recognition provided for digital and electronic signatures. Adjudicating Officers and procedures for their appointment to hold inquiries under the Act are also clearly written down.

There is provision for the institution of a Cyber Regulatory Appellant Tribunal under the Act. This tribunal has the power to handle all appeals made against the order of the Controller or the Adjudicating Officer. An appeal against the order of the Cyber Appellant Tribunal may only be taken up in the High Court.

Provisions for the appointment of a Controller of Certifying Authorities to license and to regulate the working of the certifying authorities is provided. This Controller acts as a repository of all digital signatures. Further, provisions for the constitution of a Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee to advise the Central Government and the Controller are described in the IT Act.

II.  Definitions

Chapter I of the Information Technology Act, 2000 lays down preliminary rules that are applicable to the other provisions through the Act. In particular, §2 of the Act lays focus on the definitions that are provided for legal terminology that is used within the IT Act.

Important Terminology

While the Act provides for more than 35 definitions within just §2 of the legislation, some of the terminologies stand as important definitions and have been previously analysed by various Courts.

  • Computer | 2(1)(i)

This definition of ‘computer’ is long and exhaustive but has been thoroughly broken down by both cyber experts and jurists. It essentially refers to any electronic processing device that includes a multitude of facilities which are connected to the computer in a system or network.

  • Cyber Security | 2(1)(nb)

The protection of any information, equipment, devices, computer, computer resource, communication device and information stored within from unauthorized access is referred to as ‘cyber security’ for the purposes of this Act.

  • Data | 2(1)(o)

The term ‘data’ is defined for the purposes of the Act as a representation of all the information that is processed by a computer system or network and is usually stored internally in the memory of a computer.

  • Digital Signature | 2(1)(p)

This term refers to the authentication of an electronic record by a subscriber by means of an electronic method in accordance with provisions of the Act.

  • Electronic Record | 2(1)(t)

The definition of ‘electronic record’ is written as the data, record, image or sound that is sent or received in an electronic form.

  • Information | 2(1)(v)

The term ‘information’ for the purposes of this Act refers to any data, message, text, images, sound, voice, codes, the computer programmed software or databases.

Amendment of 2008

Through the IT Amendment Act of 2008, certain changes and additions were made to the definitions provided in the Act.

  • Computer Network | 2(1)(j)

The definition of a computer network from the original Act was substituted for this version so as to include the connections between various computer systems and communication devices. This definition provided for more communication media and a much more complex angle.

  • Cybercafé | 2(1)(na)

The definition of a cyber café as being a facility from where the internet can be accessed and offered to any person was provided vide the Amendment Act.

  • Electronic Signature | 2(1)(ta)

The most prominent addition to the Amendment Act is the introduction of an electronic signature. It stands for authentication of any electronic record by a subscriber by means of an electronic technique and this includes the previously mentioned digital signature as well.

As a consequence of this addition, the Government now prescribes new methods of authentication of e-record that isn’t strictly restricted to digital signatures only.

  • Electronic Signature Certificate | 2(1)(tb)

In addition to §2(1)(ta), an electronic signature certificate is now issued under §35 and includes a digital signature certificate too.

  • Intermediary | 2(1)(w)

An incredibly important addition to the original Act is the position of an intermediary with respect to electronic records. The duty of an intermediary and the services provided are explained within this section.

III. Judicial Precedents related to Information Technology Act, 2000

The definitions provided within the IT Act, 2000 and the IT Amendment Act, 2008 have been judiciously criticized and analysed in various judgments and by various Courts.

  • Dharambir v. CBI[2]

A collective reading of §2(1)(t) and §2(1)(o) was carried out to show that an ‘electronic record’ is a document is not confined to data alone, but also includes the record or data generated, received or sent in electronic form.

Additionally, ‘data’ includes not only the active memory of the computer or hard disc but also the subcutaneous memory. Therefore, an erased hard disc made blank still retain information which can be retrieved and provided as ‘electronic record’.

  • Ram Prasad v. State[3]

The analysis of §2(1)(t) was conducted to check whether a compact disc (CD) comes within the purview of a ‘document’. Further, §29A was compared with §2(1)(t), both of which define an ‘electronic record’.

  • Bombay Bar Association v. Nilesh C. Ojha[4]

The definition of an ‘intermediary’ from §2(1)(w) of the IT Act and from Rule 2(i) of the IT Rules were analysed to check if a particular party could be represented as an intermediary within the ambit of the Act.

  • Alok Kumar Brara v. Sarah Jane[5]

The multimillion-dollar company Twitter Inc. was claimed to be an ‘intermediary’ falling within the meaning of §2(1)(w) of the IT Act, and thus, making it responsible for the offensive tweets put upon its portal.

  • Saidai Duraisamy v. Stalin[6]

The definition of an ‘electronic record’ according to §2(1)(t) was read along with §2(4) which provides legal recognition of electronic records. In this case, it was compared with §65B of the Evidence Act to test the admissibility of an electronic record as evidence in Court.

  • Kumarpal v. Universal Mechanical Works[7]

An examination of §2(1)(t) was generated so as to understand how to treat the electronic record as documentary evidence. In this particular case, the author involved opined that a computer printout which looks like an ordinary document is actually a document in the ‘electronic form’ that falls within the ambit of the section.

Sudarshan Cargo v. Techvac Engg[8]

The definition of an ‘email’ was discussed at Court and was referred to a communication addressed to a definite person who is intended by the originator to receive such electronic record.

  • Nisha v. State of Kerala[9]

2(1)(r) that defines ‘register’ was explained in this case as a list, data or record of any entries maintained in an electronic form.

  • Cosmopolitan Hospital v. Commercial Taxes[10]

In this case, a CD was held to be admissible as evidence under general provisions of law, based on the amendment to the definition of ‘evidence’ under §3 of the Indian Evidence Act when read along with §2(1)(t) of the IT Act.

IV. Conclusion

With the adoption of the Information Technology Act, 2000, India is now one of the few countries in the world that have a separate law to deal with IT issues and crimes. This has now paved way for incredible growth in the fields of e-commerce and internet transactions which has in turn, resulted in advanced economic growth.[11]

While the definitions provided in the Act seem to continuously be under the Court’s scrutiny and care, the law as of today is adequate enough to tackle issues in cyber law.

Through the addition of certain amendments made in 2008, some of the legal terminologies were made clearer and more coherent to be in consonance with the rest of the Act. However, these changes were made merely because of an issue regarding the same arose in the Courts.

Without the problem of a case being filed and the section being questioned, there is no current provision which is being examined for its validity and rightful meaning. However, with the ever-growing world of new technology and expanding cyberspace, we aren’t yet aware of what kind of cybercrimes may arise. One can only hope that the true purpose and meaning behind the Act can outshine the offences that come in between its path.


References

  • Information Technology Act, No. 21 of 2000, Acts of Parliament, 2000, India
  • Cyber Laws in India, “IT Security of IIBF”, TaxMann Publishers
  • Cherian Samuel and Munish Sharma, “India’s Strategic Options in a Changing Cyberspace”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (2019)
  • Arindrajit Basu and Elonnai Hickok, “Cyberspace and External Affairs: A Memorandum for India”, The Centre for Internet & Society (2018)
  • Animesh Sharma, Roshmi Sharma, Amlan Jyoti Baruah, “A brief study on Cyber Crime and Cyber Laws of India”, International Research Journal of Engineering and Technology (2017)
  • IDSA Task Force Report, “India’s Cyber Security Challenge”, Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (2012)
  • Ahmed Alnagrat, “An Overview of Contemporary Cyberspace Activities and the Challenging Cyberspace Crimes/Threats” (2014)
  • Shrikant Ardhapurkar, Tanu Srivastava, Swati Sharma, Vijay Chaurasiya, Abhishek Vaish, “Privacy and Data Protection in Cyberspace in Indian Environment”, International Journal of Engineering Science and Technology (2010)
  • Mangala Aiswarya and Aswathy Rajan, “IPR and Cyberspace – Indian Perspective with Special Reference to Software Piracy”, International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics (2018)

[1] §2, Information Technology Act, No. 21 of 2000, Acts of Parliament, 2000, India.

[2] Dharambir v. Central Bureau of investigation 2008 SCC OnLine Del 336

[3] Ram v. State 2014 SCC OnLine Mad 67

[4] The Bombay Bar Association v. Nilesh C. Ojha 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 4552

[5] Alok Kumar Brara v. Sarah Jane 2019 SCC OnLine Del 8618

[6] Saidai Sa. Duraisamy v. Stalin M.K. 2016 SCC OnLine Mad 23264

[7] Kumarpal N. Shah v. Universal Mechanical Works Pvt. Ltd. 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1627

[8] Sudarshan Cargo (P) Ltd. v. Techvac Engg. (P) Ltd. 2014 1 ICC 906 (Kant)

[9] Nisha L.S. v. State of Kerala 2017 SCC OnLine Ker 30814

[10] Cosmopolitan Hospital Pvt. Ltd. v. Intelligence Officer, Commercial Taxes 2015 SCC OnLine Ker 18107

[11] Government of India, “Paper on E-Governance”, accessed at http://www.egovindia.org/egovernancepaper.doc

  • Swasti Salecha says:

    Your article is a one stop solution for all the questions regarding the IT terminologies from legal point of view. The judicial precedents are very insighful.