Only 14 cyber crime convictions in five years

A total of 1,325 cases were registered until Jan 31, 2020, after enactment of PECA, 2016


Rizwan Shehzad   July 20, 2020
A REUTERS FILE IMAGE

ISLAMABAD:

The Ministry of Interior’s revelation before the National Assembly that the cybercrime cases were on the rise and the authorities concerned could manage to convict only 14 accused in the last five years evidently depicts that justice moves at a snail’s pace in Pakistan.

Interior Minister Ijaz Ahmad Shah informed the lawmakers during the July 16 session of the assembly that a total of 1,325 cases were registered until January 31, 2020, after the enactment of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016.

Before the enactment of PECA, the interior minister stated in his written reply submitted during the Question Hour session that a total of 1,103 cases were reported with the National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) from year 2007, adding that complete charge sheets (challan) were submitted in 546 cases, interim charge sheet in 435 cases, while 344 cases were still under investigation.

“The total cases convicted under PECA, 2016 is 14,” the reply stated.

The details were shared in response to questions raised by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) lawmaker Chaudhary Faqir Ahmad.

Ahmad had asked about the total number of registered cases under PECA since its inception, cases reported to NR3C and the conviction rate.

“The abysmally low rate of cybercrimes conviction can fairly be attributed to the government,” Aaliya Zareen Abbasi, a lawyer who specifically deals with the cybercrime cases said.

“The government is not allocating fair resources. Resultantly, the crime has been doubled and there is alarming number of pending cases,” she added.

The lawyer’s apprehension regarding the increasing number of cases was also supplemented by the interior minister’s reply to another question in the session.

To the query of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI’s) lawmaker Nuzhat Pathan if cybercrimes were increasing and the total number of incidents of cybercrimes registered during the last four years, the minister’s reply surprised many.

“Yes, the number of the complaints has been increasing day by day. A total of 50,505 complaints had been registered during the last year out of which 11,389 complaints were converted into enquiries and total 1,071 cases were registered till September 30, 2019,” Shah stated.

He revealed that “982 accused have been arrested” in the total registered cases.

“It is due to immense pressure on the cybercrime cell of FIA and the state is not making effective investment in the field of enhancing manpower as well as rendering training to the NR3C staff,” Aaliya lamented.

“Even the prosecution defending the state lacks required trainings and expertise to deal with the technicalities involved resulting in a massive delay in conclusion of trials of cybercrimes,” she said.

Aaliya observed that the courts were suffering due to lack of training to analyse digital evidence, particularly, in the absence of specific procedure to deal with such matters.

“Imparting specialised training, hiring professionals and enhancing manpower for the law enforcement agency specifically working in cybercrime is the need of the hour,” she said.

The interior minister said that the government had approved the expansion of cybercrime wing of FIA through Phase-III of NR3C.

He said that 10 new cybercrime reporting centres had been notified and operational in Islamabad, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Multan, Abbottabad, DI Khan, Sukkur, Hyderabad, Gilgit and Gwadar.

Shah observed that 407 cybercrime investigators, forensic experts and technical staff had been recruited and upgradation of existing digital forensic laboratories and technical investigation tools to meet the growing challenges of cyber world had also been completed.

He maintained that the procurement of latest investigation and forensic gadgets for effective cyber investigations was under process.

Currently, he said, 131 regular and non-development posts were approved.

Moreover, he said, a project titled “National Response Centre for Cyber Crimes (NR3C) Project Phase-III” was approved in 2018 with 416 contractual posts. Until now, 354 personnel had been recruited on contractual basis.

Despite the low conviction rate, the government had increased the salaries of FIA employees in March observing that it was the only organisation which dealt with transnational organised crime, including corruption, human smuggling/trafficking, corporate and banking crimes, money laundering, terror financing, cybercrimes and others.

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