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Jurisdiction in Cyberspace

The Jurisdiction in Cyberspace- Is the law really enforceable in Cyberspace?

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The Cyberspace has been booming since the past few years and its widespread use has gathered a huge user base. With its rampant usage, there have been many malpractices involved and a new branch of cybercrime has emerged as a result of the same. All of us today use cyberspace and we have witnessed some of these malpractices too. Most of the common cybercrimes are:

  1. Hacking
  2. Virus, Trojans and Worms
  3. Cyber Pornography
  4. Cyber Stalking
  5. Cyber Terrorism
  6. Cyber Crimes related to Finance
  7. Data Diddling
  8. Internet time thefts

In law the term jurisdiction is of utter importance, however, it is strange to see that the word jurisdiction has not been described in the CPC i.e. the Code of Civil Procedure. To speak in layman’s terms, one could define jurisdiction as the power that the Court possesses in order to adjudicate on a matter.  To further define it, jurisdiction can be referred to as the power to adjudicate on legal matters and administer justice in society by those people who have the authority to control and are a legal body formally formed for the same purpose. Jurisdiction, basically, is also dubbed as the geographical area in which the legal authority of the Court exists. Not only geographical location, but also subject-matter determines the extent of the authority of the Courts.

Types of Jurisdiction

We have already seen what jurisdiction means in law. Apart from Original jurisdiction and Appellate jurisdiction which are basic and most will already be aware of it, there are other types of jurisdiction which determine the authority of the Court, these are outlined below:

Pecuniary Jurisdiction

The word Pecuniary is derived from something that is related to money. The Pecuniary Jurisdiction is relevant to the competency of the court to adjudicate upon cases of the monetary value of the case. The pecuniary jurisdiction is the value of the suit, so a court can try that particular case unless it exceeds the pecuniary jurisdiction of the court. This provision of pecuniary jurisdiction was devised in order to avoid the overburdening of suits in the courts, therefore, there is a demarcation made for different kinds of courts with regards to different monetary limits in order to adjudicate upon cases determined by their monetary values.

In ordinary scenarios, the court will accept the monetary value decided by the plaintiff, but, if the court finds that the monetary value decided by the plaintiff is wrong, then the court will intervene. For instance, Mr X sues Ms T to recover Rs. 5000 in Bombay High Court for breach of contract because the Bombay High Court has original jurisdiction. On the other hand, the Small Causes Court has pecuniary jurisdiction up to Rs. 50000, so ideally, this suit of breach of contract for Rs. 5000 should be filed in the Small Causes Court. 

Territorial Jurisdiction  

Under territorial jurisdiction, there is a classification of courts on the basis of the authority of the court according to geographical limits. The court cannot adjudicate upon those cases which supersede its territorial limit. The territorial limit is the expanse of the area wherein the court can exercise its authority.  

Section 20 of the Civil Procedure Code says that the plaintiff is at the liberty to file a suit in any of these places listed below:

  • The place where the complete or partial cause of action arose, 
  • The place where the residence or business of the defendant exists,
  • In the circumstances where there are multiple defendants, the suit can be filed in any of the places where the defendant resides or works.

For instance, if Ram, who is a resident of Haryana beats Shyam in Mumbai, Shyam can file the suit in either Haryana or Mumbai.

The provision of territorial jurisdiction is devised with the objective to secure justice without any unwarranted expenses for defendants like expenses of travelling long distances for the cases. 

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

As the name suggests, in subject matter jurisdiction the nature of the claim i.e. the type of the subject matter of the suit determines the court’s authority to adjudicate upon that case. For instance, Nitin who lives in Chandigarh buys a food item of X brand that is defective. Nitin filed the suit against X brand in District Civil Court, whereas he should file the suit in Chandigarh District Forum. The order passed by District Civil Court will be void since, in subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court that does not have subject-matter jurisdiction cannot take up the suit in the first place.1  

An Overview of Jurisdiction of CyberSpace

Online transactions constitute a major part of cyberspace and while administering these online transactions there is also a risk of cyber torts that tags along. In India, The Information Technology Act, 2000 forms the skeleton for laws governing such online transactions. The Act mentions the provisions with regards to the jurisdiction of the cyberlaw. Chapter XI of the Act talks about the adjudication of cases regarding the act. It is provided that any contravention of this Act will be adjudicated by an officer who shall be appointed by the Central Government. Such an officer is to hold an inquiry in the manner which is also prescribed by the Central Government itself.2

For violations and other offences under the act which are domestic, the Section 48(1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 has established a Cyber Appellate Tribunal, which is defined in Section 2(1)(n) of the Act to adjudicate upon cases. Whereas, Section 75 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 talks about how the act is enforceable for any contraventions of the provisions of this Act and any offences mentioned under this act even outside India. The person who has violated the provisions can belong to another nationality, required that the computer system, computer, or network that has been used during the violation is located in India.3 

Under Section 46(3) of the Information and Technology Act, 2000, the person who shall be appointed as the adjudicating officer by the Central government must possess experience in the area of Information and Technology apart from the legal and judicial experience.

Under Section 46(5) of the Information and Technology Act, 2000, every adjudicating officer shall have the powers of a civil court which are conferred on the Appellate Tribunal under sub-section (2) of section 58.

Under Section 46(2) of the Information and Technology Act, 2000, it is also mentioned that the adjudicating officer appointed by the Central Government shall exercise jurisdiction to adjudicate matters in which the claim for injury or damage does not exceed rupees five crores, and any case where the claim for injury or damage exceeds rupees five crores should be tried under other competent courts. Therefore it is clearly provided that the pecuniary jurisdiction for cyberspace cases is less than five crores.

Even though the Act speaks about pecuniary jurisdiction, it fails to throw light on the territorial jurisdiction for adjudication of cases which involve the violation of the Act.4 Cyberspace has no boundaries and it is a global phenomenon, keeping that in mind, developing territorial jurisdiction for cases is one of the most fundamental and vital parts to administer justice. Since the Information and Technology Act, 2000 which is the governing set of rules for cyberspace does not cater to territorial jurisdictions by discussing geographical boundaries, one has to resort to the Civil Procedure Code to seek assistance with regards to the matter of territorial jurisdiction for cyberspace suits. As per civil jurisdiction, the place where the cause of action arises is the place where the court has jurisdiction to adjudicate that particular case. This ideal is derived from the legal maxim “lex loci delicti”  which literally means the law of the place where the delict [tort] was committed. But since cyberspace law is different from other law, and is unconventional, it is difficult to determine the jurisdiction for the case because cyber transactions are across borders, which is why there are multiple jurisdictions that can adjudicate the case.

Conclusion

We have the Information and Technology Act, 2000 to govern cyberspace law but the fact that it does not mention any provisions for territorial jurisdiction is a major lacuna for cyberspace law in India which needs to be dealt with. The statute of Civil Procedure Code does provide us with the jurisdictional procedure but since cyberlaw is unconventional and comes with its own set of geographical hurdles, there is a problem faced by parties of cases of cyberspace malpractices. As we know, cyber law is borderless and universal, which is exactly why there is a dire need of extraterritorial jurisdiction provisions which can be easily executed in the legal framework of our country. We have to come up with a dispute solving mechanism which is beyond the conventional methods of law. The Information and Technology Act, 2000 is silent on these issues, and the Civil Procedure Code is too complicated. We need a specific provision of law which resolves the problems of cyberspace so that law can really be enforceable in cyberspace.

Endnotes

  1. https://blog.ipleaders.in/civil-procedure-codes-application-cyberspace/#:~:text=Jurisdiction%20can%20be%20defined%20as,area%20wherein%20the%20authority%20extends.
  2. 46(1), Information and Technology Act, 2000
  3. http://jcil.lsyndicate.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/CYBERSPACE-AND-JURISDICTION-FINAL-PAPER-Prevy-Tarunya.pdf
  4. THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACT, 2000
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Virali Joisher

Student, Kirit P Mehta School of Law, NMIMS Mumbai

Virali is an enthusiastic law student who has big ambitions, and a bigger spirit to always keep learning. She is exploring her interests in the field of law and feels strongly for women’s issues. For any Clarifications, feedback, and suggestion, you can reach her at virali.joisher@gmail.com

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