news / Judicial Programs

Crafting a Legal Remedy for India’s Cybercrime Crisis


31 Aug 2023

With the pace of digital transformation accelerating, the South Asia region has become a “ground zero” for cybercrime. As cybercriminals eye larger profits, financial data theft, credit card fraud, and even the targeting of critical national infrastructure is proliferating, the United Nations says.

And yet, legal methods for trying and prosecuting cybercrimes in South Asia are struggling to keep pace with need, experts say.

“Cybercrimes pose a new transformational challenge globally,” said Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi, Director of the National Judicial Academy (NJA) of India. “In the future, the greatest danger the world faces are wars on data. Defending against cybercrimes must be a priority and laws need to be framed accordingly.”

To address the legal gaps and assist countries in Asia in preparing their digital defenses, the CEELI Institute is working with the NJA and the U.S. Federal Judicial Center to train judges to strengthen legal capacities. In June, eight Indian judges took part in a workshop in Prague to build a unique curriculum that they will use to train fellow judges on successfully prosecuting cybercrimes.

Elements of the five-day training, which followed a similar course on human trafficking in May, explored how to examine, store, and obtain electronic evidence across borders using international good practices and Indian law. Because the victims of cybercrimes can be transnational, there are jurisdictional issues to consider when handling cases.

Both groups will deliver their sessions during a “pilot workshop” in India in the Fall. The goal of this “train-the-trainers” project is to introduce a new, modern, and pedagogical approach to adult learning in a judicial environment, and to create new curricula on both human trafficking and cybercrime.

Justice Anoop Chitkara, a judge with the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, is one of the eight judges taking part in this program. He is designing a session to educate fellow Indian judges on technology and its evolving challenges.

“My portion of the training is designed to sensitize judges to the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI). For instance, if someone has committed an offense, they could also create a deep fake image of an alibi, suggesting that they were somewhere else when the crime was committed. In the same way, a person can be falsely implicated with AI.”

He added: “As judges, we cannot send every video or image to the laboratory for verification. It’s simply too much content. So, we must be aware of these challenges and develop strategies to address them.”

India is particularly vulnerable to cybercrime. With large segments of the population living in poverty, criminals can more easily take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities, said Judge Chitkara. As the country moves toward a cashless economy, opportunities for cybercriminals will only multiply.

“AI is just like nuclear technology; the potential for devastation is massive,” the judge said. “We can't really stop it, but we can prepare for it.”

One way to do that is with new curricula. “Programs like [the CEELI Institute training] help India’s legal system and its judges,” said Indian Supreme Court Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah, who participated in the human trafficking course. “When a judge is more informed, it’s easier for them to know what laws to apply. Laws are useless if they are only on paper.”

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