With the rapid development of information technology, the next theatre of crime is expected to be the Internet. Anticipating this, the Maharashtra government and its police force have started equipping themselves to handle cyber crimes.
Mumbai police recently submitted a detailed plan to the Fadnavis government, detailing steps to be taken to make the force ready to tackle such crimes. And according to sources in chief minister’s office, Fadnavis is impressed with the plan and has accepted most of the suggestions made in it. The CM is also said to have promised Mumbai police Rs 50 crore, for being used over the next five years, to upgrade the force. Mumbai police have a cyber cell in its headquarters, and a cyber crime station at Bandra Kurla Complex. As per the plan, police will set up three more cyber cells in the city, reporting to the joint commissioner of police (Crime) and additional commissioner of police (Crime). One of the newly formed cyber cells will assist the Economic Offense Wing of Mumbai crime branch. And the government will soon create an additional post of a deputy commissioner of police (Cyber Crime).
“In the days ahead, cyber crimes will go up, and we need to be ready for it. Keeping that in mind, we felt there was the need for three more cyber cells in the city,” said KMM Prasanna, ACP (Crime). Apart from the new cyber cell, Mumbai police will put in all efforts to make its stations computer savvy.
As per the plan, five officers from each police station will be imparted two-year training on cyber crime and cyber laws. Currently, cyber cases are registered at police stations, but investigation is carried out by the existing two cyber cells and cyber crime police station, as cops in other stations lack expertise.
Apart from training, stress has also been laid on creating the required infrastructure to keep Mumbai police a step ahead of criminals. Cops will soon get a state-of-art Information Technology (IT) centre that will be set up above the police station in Bandra Kurla Complex. Along with this, the force will also have a dedicated training centre for policemen. “The IT centre will have the latest equipment to help the force crack cyber cases,” said Prasanna.
Apart from detection, conviction is also important in such cases. And for better conviction rate, special courts will be set up. Mumbai police will also work closely with public prosecutors and magistrates, and the judiciary will be kept in the loop about the training and various cyber cases.
Amendments to law
The police have also sought certain amendments to some of the sections in the Information Technology Act, especially section 78. As per this section, currently, an officer in the rank of a police inspector or above can investigate cyber crime cases. Mumbai police wants officers at sub-inspector level to do this. “We have very few PI rank officers, and among those that we have, most are old and hence not computer friendly. Hence we want officers in PSI rank, who are young and recently recruited, to be trained to handle cyber crimes,” said Prasanna.
Police also want more clarity in section 66-A (punishment for sending offensive message through communication service, etc) of the IT Act. One of the important sections which police believe needs immediate amendment is section 66-F. “Currently, section 66-F does not cover online radicalization. We want this to be included under the Act,” said Prasanna.
Mumbai police have also requested the government to include Internet etiquette in the school curriculum (above fourth standard). “We will also hold an awareness campaign on cyber crimes, and also seek expert help whenever our officers hit a dead end,” said Prasanna.
Cops trying their best, but cyber crimes increasing by the day
Last year saw a sudden surge in the number of cyber crime cases registered in the city compared to 2013. And though its resources are limited, Mumbai police are trying their best to handle these sensitive cases. In 2014, the city saw 527 cyber cases being registered; in 2013 there were only 149 such cases. And to deal with cyber cases, cops have only one cyber cell and a cyber crime police station, at Bandra Kurla Complex.
“We are definitely short-staffed, and cyber crimes are increasing every year. At times, it becomes difficult to investigate all the cases registered with us,” said an officer in crime branch. “We not only investigate cases registered in cyber cell and cyber crime station, we also assist police stations that have registered cyber crimes,” he added.
According to a senior cop, in today’s crimes, technology is a big factor as cell phones play a major role. Hence, most crimes come under the ambit of cyber crimes. Explaining the difficulties in investigating such crimes, an officer said: “Most of the officers are not tech savvy, and those that are will be transferred out after a certain period of time. Hence it’s important to create a pool of officers who can handle cyber crimes. Another problem is that servers of most social networking sites like Facebook and WhatsApp are outside India. Hence communicating with them and retrieving data take a long time. One has to understand that technology is a highly developing field. So, it will be difficult to set a deadline. However, we are trying to train 1,000 officers in one and-a-half years time. The state-of-art IT centre will take some time to come up. But the positive point is that the chief minister is much concerned about cyber crime and has promised us that the government would assist us in implementing the plan in the next five years. “
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