Information Technology Act 2000 (ITA 2000) in India has been under a review process since January 2005.

Initially an expert committee constituted by the Ministry of Information Technology submitted a report which was largely “Intermediary Protection Oriented”. When this was heavily criticized for its bias to protect portals such as baazee.com at the expense of a genuine desire to change the law for the better, the Government set about making some cosmetic changes and finally came up with  an amendement bill in 2006. Though this contained some efforts to include data protection aspects, the Bill fell short of expectations of a good legislation that could be a deterrant for Cyber Crimes  at the same time being supportive of E-Commerce development.

Even this bill however failed to address the the prevailing issues and created an impression that Government wanted to restrict the powers of the Police in handling Cyber Crimes. The changes made most offenses “Non Cognizable” making it necessary for Police to get judicial orders before any arrest or seizure could take place. Across the board the punishment in terms of possible imprisonment term were reduced to give an impression that it is “Criminal Friendly”.

Couple of changes that were made in the guise of “Data Protection” were cosmetic and increased the civil liabilities that could be imposed on BPOs for data breach but kept leakage of sensitive personal data from portals largely unpunishable. Hurdles were placed on citizens seeking justice from issues arising out of false profiles, defamation and harmful propoganda on social networking sites. Abiltiy of Police to investigate Cyber Crimes were largely curtailed.

Now the Parliamentary committee appears to have pointed out that the changes donot address the issue of “Cyber Terrorism” and “Child Pornography” and hence asked for a further review.

The department has now stated that the review will be completed by December 2007 and opinion of all stake holders will be called for and examined by placing a copy of the draft on the website.

However, we must remember that when the ITA 2000 was taken up for review in 2005,  the approach of the Minsitry was to finalize the terms in consultation with  a close group of vested business interests with a pliable set of advisors to make up a farcical advisory committee. Netizens have been un represented in the task. Even the Cyber Regulatory Advisory Committee which provided representation to Home Ministry and Defense Ministry were by passed. Volunatry suggestions given to the Ministry by Netizen bodies such as Naavi.org were largely ignored.

This approach of the Ministry in the last few years was in sharp contrast with the earlier approach where the Ministry was repsonsive to public comments on the proposed legislation and at least an attempt was made to accommodate some of the suggestions.

Hopefully the current team of bureacrats would restore consultation with relevant interest groups and stake holders before the next set of changes are made to the law.

For those who would like to follow the history of legislation in India on Information Technology Act, the changes proposed and implemented at various stages, suggestions ignored deliberately by the Ministry etc, the following link would be useful.

Present Proposals: http://www.naavi.org/ita_2006/

Comments on the Earlier Proposals, Suggestions Made etc: http://www.naavi.org/naavi_comments_itaa/index.htm

Naavi

www.naavi.org

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