The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) informed the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that a “cyber volunteer” programme has been rolled out for “cyber hygiene promotion” and the services of volunteers would be utilised by the State police as per requirement.
The MHA, through its cyber crime grievance portal cybercrime.gov.in, aims to raise a group of “cyber crime volunteers” to flag “unlawful content” on the Internet. Various groups, including the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), have expressed concern that the programme enables a culture of surveillance and could create potential social distrust by encouraging civilians to report the online activities of other citizens.
Biju Janta Dal Member of Parliament Pinaki Misra asked whether “concerns of infringement of privacy due to surreptitious and malafide intrusion into an individual’s online activities are addressed in this programme and its operating protocol.”
Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said in a written reply, “The challenges of cyber space are many which flow from its vastness and borderless character. ... Cyber Crime Volunteer Framework has been rolled out as an initiative as a part of cyber hygiene promotion to bring together citizens to contribute in the fight against cybercrime in the country and assist State/UT LEAs (law enforcement agencies) in their endeavor to curb cyber crimes. The volunteers will be enrolled and their services utilized by the respective State/UT Police Authorities, as per their requirement.”
Cyber Crime Reporting Portal
The Minister observed in another reply that the MHA had operationalised the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal on August 30, 2019 to provide a centralised mechanism to the citizens for online reporting of all types of cyber crime incidents, with a special focus on cyber crimes against women and children. “Incidents reported on this portal, their conversion into FIRs and subsequent action thereon are handled by the State/UT law enforcement agency concerned as per the provisions of the law,” he stated.
The reply said that as per the data maintained, since its inception, 3,17,439 cyber crime incidents and 5,771 FIRs have been registered up to February 28 in the country. The conversion of complaints received into FIRs stood at 1.81%.
“21,562 cyber crime incidents and 87 FIRs registered in Karnataka, and 50,806 cyber crime incidents and 534 FIRs registered in Maharashtra. The MHA holds regular interactions with the State/UTs and advises them to expedite the disposal of cyber crime incidents reported with special emphasis on disposal of incidents pertaining to women and children,” it said.
The Minister stated in a third reply that the government had approved the setting up of 1,023 Fast Track Special Courts (FTSCs), including 389 exclusive POCSO Courts, for expeditious trial and disposal of cases related to rape and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. “As per published information, the conviction rate for the POCSO cases in 2019 was 34.9%,” the reply stated.