India arrested over 1,600 for cybercrimes in 2011

Amid growing public outcry over India's controversial IT Act, the government notes arrests have jumped by nearly one-third from previous year which it says reflects rising trend of cybercrime in the country.

More than 1,600 people were arrested in 2011 for cybercrimes In India, nearly 30 percent more than the previous year, amid ongoing protests against the country's controversial IT laws.

Indian Minister of State for Communications Milind Deora said the 1,630 arrested last year comprised 1,184 under Information Technology (IT) Act (2000) and 446 under sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) related to cybercrimes, according to a report in the Times of India Saturday. He was citing data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

In 2010, the number of arrests for cybercrimes recorded under the IT Act (2000) was 799, whereas the number of arrests under sections of the IPC was 394, making a total of 1,193.

Deora added that NCRB data reflected a rising trend of cybercrime in India.

According to the official, last year's cybercrime cases involved, among others, tampering computer source documents, hacking, obscene publication and transmission in electronic form, and failure of compliance of the certifying authorities.

As for cybercrime cases reported under the sections of IPC, Deora said they were related to false electronic evidence, destruction of electronic evidence and forgery.

Public outcry over India IT Act
Internet freedom and penalties for cybercrimes in India have been the subject of controversy and debate over the past year.

Deora pointed out authorities had under IT Act (2000) issued direction for blocking 310 Web pages for carrying anti-social, anti-national and hateful content.

Just last month, India's Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee (CRAC) said it will discuss the IT Act as a result of public objections, and issue interim guidelines to state governments to prevent officials from abusing the law.

Specifically, CRAC said it wanted to discuss Section 70 of the IT Act and the Intermediary Guidelines 2011 as well as the controversial Section 66 , which punishes those who "send offensive messages through communication services".

Censorship on sites
Back in January, an Indian court warned Internet giants Facebook and Google that their sites would be blocked if they did not remove objectionable content from their Web pages.

This led to an outcry and prompted Deora to publicly refute claims that the government was approaching Web censorship in a manner similar to China.

In August, the Indian government blocked some 250 Web sites which allegedly contained images and videos doctored to incite Muslim retaliation attacks on people originating from the northeastern regions, triggering a frenzied exodus of the latter.