Government auditor CAG has expressed concern over the post of Chairperson of Cyber Appellate Tribunal lying vacant for about five years, saying this has led to not a single case being heard or disposed of despite pending appeals.
"Non appointment of the Chairperson of Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CyAT) since July 2011 coupled with lack of provision for vesting the members of Tribunal with powers to constitute benches and disposal of appeals, defeated the very purpose of its creation...," the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said in a report.
This also resulted in "unfruitful expenditure of Rs 27.64 crore on salary and other establishment expenditure for the period from April 2011 to March 2016", said the report tabled in Parliament last week.
CyAT is a statutory organisation under the administrative control of Ministry of Communications and IT, the report noted. The tribunal was to act as a specialised forum to redress cyber frauds when it was set up in 2006.
The CyAT has, for the purposes of discharging its functions under the Information Technology Act, the same powers as are vested in a civil court. It consists of a chairperson and other members appointed by central government in consultation with Chief Justice of India.
"Audit observed that after retirement of the last chairperson on June 30, 2011, no chairperson was appointed as of June 2016 and hence no judicial order was pronounced during this period....Upto March 2016, 66 cases of appeals were pending because of non-appointment of the Chairman. Thus there was no redressal of the grievances of the persons aggrieved by an order, made by Controller or an adjudicating officer," CAG said.
However, members and other staff continued to render services in the CyAT since then and expenditure of Rs 27.64 crore were incurred on its establishment for the period from 2011-12 to 2015-16 without carrying out its primary business of hearing and disposal of appeals, it added.
Ministry, on its part, has said the process of filling up the vacancy in CyAT is under active consideration, the report pointed out.
The Ministry also sought to assure that in future, with due amendment in the IT Act, members of the tribunal would be vested with the powers to constitute benches and dispose of the appeals, in the absence of the chairman.
"Reply of the Ministry is not acceptable because the fact remains that the CyAT has been lying defunct for about five years and not carrying out its primary function of forming benches and listing appeals/cases for hearing to pass the judgement," CAG said.
Further, the cyber fraud victims of the country have no option but to approach the High Courts -- which are already overburdened because of large number of pending cases -- for redressal of the grievances, it added.