All you Need to know about Cyber Appellate Tribunal

By Tanushree Dubey

Published on: October 18, 2023 at 16:11 IST

In today’s age of information and technology, the legal framework has undergone a significant change to keep pace with the rapidly evolving digital landscape. The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act), stands as a pivotal piece of legislation in India, addressing a wide array of electronic transactions, digital communication, and cybersecurity matters. However, with the rise of the digital age, legal challenges unique to this environment have surfaced.

To guarantee the constructive implementation of the IT Act and the resolution of disputes that arise in the digital world, the legislation provides for the establishment of Cyber Appellate Tribunals (CATs). These specialized adjudicatory bodies play a pivotal role in addressing the distinctive legal challenges of the digital era. This article offers an exhaustive exploration of the roles and functions of these tribunals, supported by relevant sections of the IT Act.

The Information Technology Act of 2000:

The Information Technology Act of 2000, This act provides legal recognition to transactions conducted via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and various forms of electronic communication. It serves as the foremost legal apparatus governing the burgeoning spheres of cybercrime and electronic commerce (e-commerce) in the country. The Information Technology Act was a strategic response to the escalating relevance of the Internet and electronic communication within India’s evolving economy.

Establishment of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal:

Section 48 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, authorizes the establishment of specialized Cyber Appellate Tribunals. These tribunals, collectively known as the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal, are established by the Central Government via an official notification.

The key points of Section 48 are:

  • Specialized Adjudicatory Body: It empowers the Central Government to set up Cyber Appellate Tribunals, specially designed to address legal issues unique to the digital age.
  • Notification Trigger: The formation of these tribunals is initiated through an official notification issued by the Central Government.
  • Jurisdiction Specification: The Central Government, through this section, specifies the matters and places where the Cyber Appellate Tribunal may exercise its jurisdiction. This ensures clarity and direction for the tribunals’ operations.

Section 48 is the legal foundation for the creation of these specialized tribunals, allowing them to address appeals and disputes arising from electronic transactions, digital communication, and cybersecurity with focused expertise.

Composition of Cyber Appellate Tribunal (Section 49)

Section 49 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, provide the composition of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT), outlining key aspects:

  • According to Section 49, The Cyber Appellate Tribunal is a single-person body, known as the “Presiding Officer of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal.”.
  • The appointment of the Presiding Officer of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal is a prerogative of the Central Government. This appointment is made through an official notification issued by the Central Government. This centralized approach ensures that the appointment process is structured and uniform, enhancing consistency in the selection of Presiding Officers. The notification serves as a formal instrument that designates the Presiding Officer’s authority and responsibilities, emphasizing the importance of a regulated and centralized procedure.

Qualifications for the Presiding Officer (Section 50)

Section 50 of the IT Act outlines the qualifications necessary for an individual to be appointed as the Presiding Officer of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal:

  • High Court Judge: The first qualification requires the individual to be, have been, or be qualified to be a Judge of a High Court. This mandate underscores the significance of legal expertise and experience at the highest level of the judiciary. A High Court Judge’s background ensures a deep understanding of legal matters, making them well-equipped to preside over complex cases in the digital landscape.
  • Indian Legal Service: An alternate qualification, wherein an individual can qualify if they are or have been a member of the Indian Legal Service and have held a post in Grade I of that Service for at least three years. These criteria is designed to ensure that the Presiding Officer possesses substantial experience in the legal profession. Membership in the Indian Legal Service and a Grade I position for a minimum of three years demonstrate a robust foundation in legal service and administration.

Term of Office of Presiding Officer (Section 51)

Section 51 talks about the term of office for the Presiding Officer of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal:

  • Five-Year Term: The Presiding Officer of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal holds office for a fixed term of five years from the date they were assigned. This duration provides consistency and stability in leadership, allowing the Presiding Officer ample time to oversee the adjudication of cases within the digital realm. It promotes the development of expertise and familiarity with the unique legal challenges that characterize the digital age.
  • Additionally, the term of office terminates when the Presiding Officer attains the age of sixty-five years, or at the end of the five-year term, whichever comes earlier. The inclusion of this age limit ensures that the Presiding Officer serves within a defined age bracket. It provides a framework for the orderly transition of leadership within the Cyber Appellate Tribunal.

Resignation and Removal of presiding Officer (Section 54)

Section 54 sets out the procedures for the resignation and removal of the Presiding Officer of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT).

  • Resignation Process: The Chairperson or a member of the CAT can resign by notifying the Central Government in writing. This process doesn’t lead to an immediate departure.
  • Continuation of Office: The Presiding Officer remains in office for three months from the date of the resignation notice, or until a successor takes office, or until their term expires, whichever comes first, ensuring seamless continuity.
  • Central Government Authority: The Central Government can allow the Presiding Officer to resign earlier than the stipulated three months if necessary. This provision offers flexibility in leadership transition.
  • Removal Procedure: In cases of misbehaviour or incapacity, the Central Government has the authority to remove the Presiding Officer. However, this removal process is thorough, involving an inquiry by a Supreme Court Judge, ensuring a fair and impartial investigation.
  • Right to Defend: The Presiding Officer is informed of the allegations against them and given a chance to defend themselves, guaranteeing due process.
  • Regulation by Central Government: The method for investigating misbehavior or incompetence of the Presiding Officer is subject to regulation by the Central Government, ensuring adherence to established standards.

Finality of Orders (Section 55)

Section 55 of the IT Act establishes that certain orders are not subject to judicial review:

  • Central Government Appointment: An order designating the Chairperson of the CAT by the Central Government is considered final and not subject to judicial review, ensuring smooth operation of the Tribunal.
  • Procedure-Based Defences: Section 55 bars judicial review of proceedings before the CAT based solely on a flaw in the Tribunal’s constitution, preserving the integrity of the CAT’s proceedings.

Appeal from controller or an adjudicating officer to the cyber appellant tribunal (section 57)

Section 57 bestows the right to appeal to the Cyber Appellate Tribunal in the event that an individual is dissatisfied with an order issued by the Controller or an Adjudicating Officer. This right to appeal is a product of legislation, and it is within the purview of the legislature to determine whether this right should be granted unconditionally to an aggrieved party or subject to certain conditions.

Appeal from the cyber appellate tribunal to high court (section 62)

Within the framework of the IT Act, as outlined in Section 62, the Cyber Appellate Tribunal serves as the final fact-finding authority. However, the Act incorporates a second avenue for appeal in the form of the High Court, allowing any individual aggrieved by a decision or order of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal to seek recourse. Such appeals must be filed within a 60-day window following the communication of the decision.

Compounding contraventions (Section 63)

The proviso to subsection (1) of Section 63 stipulates that the maximum penalty amount imposable under this Act for contraventions is not to exceed the prescribed maximum for such contravention when compounded. Penalties or compensation awarded under this Act must be paid promptly; otherwise, they are recoverable as arrears of land revenue. Moreover, the license or the Electronic Signature Certificate, as applicable, shall remain suspended until the penalty is settled. This provision ensures that contraventions are dealt with effectively, balancing enforcement with the opportunity for resolution.

Incorporating these aspects into the article will enhance the comprehensive understanding of the IT Act’s appeal processes and consequences for contraventions.

Procedure and powers of cyber appellate tribunal

In the realm of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Cyber Appellate Tribunal is vested with specific powers and a unique procedural framework. While the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, governs civil judicial proceedings, Section 58 of the IT Act delineates the distinctive procedure and powers of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal.

  • Guidance by Principles of Natural Justice

The essence of Section 58 lies in the fact that the Cyber Appellate Tribunal is not bound by the procedural constraints outlined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Instead, it is directed to be guided by the principles of natural justice. These principles revolve around the fundamental tenet that any authority must afford the individual concerned the opportunity to present their case before issuing any decision, direction, or order against them.

  • Regulation of Procedure and Sittings

Moreover, the Cyber Appellate Tribunal possesses the authority to regulate its own procedure, including the determination of the location for its sittings. While the IT Act grants this autonomy, it’s crucial to note that in the absence of specific procedures, the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure can be employed as a guiding framework.

  • Powers of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal

The Cyber Appellate Tribunal is equipped with a range of powers to ensure its effective functioning:

  • Summoning and Examination: It can summon individuals, enforce their attendance, and examine them under oath, ensuring a thorough fact-finding process.
  • Discovery and Production: The Tribunal can require the discovery and production of documents or other electronic records, facilitating the collection of crucial evidence.
  • Evidence on Affidavits: The Tribunal can receive evidence in the form of affidavits, expediting the evidentiary process.
  • Commissions Issuance: It has the authority to issue commissions for the examination of witnesses or documents, ensuring the comprehensive gathering of information.
  • Reviewing Decisions: The Cyber Appellate Tribunal is empowered to review its decisions, a necessary element for ensuring fairness and justice.
  • Default and Ex Parte Decisions: It can dismiss applications for default or decide them ex parte, addressing cases where parties fail to adhere to procedural requirements.
  • Other Prescribed Matters: The Tribunal has the flexibility to deal with any other matter that may be prescribed by law, ensuring it can adapt to evolving needs and circumstances.


To ensure the efficacy of the Cyber Appellate Tribunal, a multifaceted approach is indispensable. First and foremost, there is a compelling need to foster awareness among the general public and relevant authorities. Informed and vigilant citizens are better equipped to identify and report cybercrimes, and law enforcement agencies must remain abreast of evolving threats and legal remedies.

The technological landscape is marked by its dynamism, demanding an unwavering commitment to staying ahead of the curve. To address the myriad challenges presented by ever-evolving technology and cyber threats, the Tribunal must continually enhance its technological capabilities.

The battle against cybercrimes calls for a holistic strategy. While the Cyber Appellate Tribunal forms a pivotal component of this strategy, it is most effective when accompanied by heightened public awareness, adequate resources, technological proficiency, and a commitment to upholding the principles of justice. As the cyber world continues to evolve, so too must our approach to combating the crimes that pervade it.

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