Nasscom is the national association of software companies in India. For many aspects, Government considers Nasscom as the representative of the IT industry. Also  when any reforms are meant for the ICT sector, the opinion of Nasscom becomes a key input. Nasscom Chairman is often taken into confidence when important decisions that affect the Cyber Regulations in the country.

When Information Technology Act 2000 was drafted in 1998 (This was Called E-Commerce Act 1998), the legislation was under the control of the Commerce ministry. When the new ministry of Information Technology was formed a revised version of the 1998 draft was prepared and called IT Bill 1999. This was introduced in the parliament in December 1999. This also had come for serious criticism at that time as a badly drafted law compared to the draft of 1998. The Bill was then pushed to the standing committee. During this time, public in India lost contact with the direction the legislation was taking and waited for the recommendations of the standing committee before making further comments on the Bill. However, under the global commotion created by the “I Love You” virus, the Bill was suddenly fetched from the standing committee and introduced in the parliament in May 2000. Within a few days the Parliament announced the passage of the Bill. During this time, Nasscom was the only body which got a look at the draft of the Bill as released by the standing committee and hence the public were not able to provide any inputs to the legislation. This resulted in the act getting parliamentary approval being passed with several major errors  for which the Ministry of IT had to be held responsible. It took several years for some of these errors to be removed.

Despite this experience, the Ministry of Communication and Technology (MCIT) is again making the same mistake now with the proposed amendments to ITA-2000. The draft of the report with which the exercise has begun is in the public domain and several of the genuine followers of the legislation in India have already indicated to the Government that the proposed amendments need rethinking. The undersigned is in the forefront of this movement and even called the amendments a “Fraud on the people of India”.

But, the amendments have now been passed through the Cabinet Committee which has decided to place the same for approval of the parliament in the next session. Now the public is in the dark about what is in the Cabinet Committee approved copy of the  amendments. Has the Government taken into consideration the serious issues raised earlier?.. No body will know until the suggestions are presented in Bill form in the parliament. But then it may be too late for any modifications. Also, like in the previous instance if the Bill is pushed through the Parliament which consists of people who are only interested in less important political bickerings, then a faulty Bill will become a law.

If this happens, it is not only the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology that has to be blamed but also Nasscom headed by Mr Kiran Karnik. Nasscom has already taken a public stand on the issue saying in a press release that “Nasscom welcomes the Amendments”. If this expression is meant for the “Expert Committee’s Version” without the major modifications that have been proposed, then Nasscom would become branded as a “Stooge of the Government” sacrificing the interests of the industry. It could be the beginning of the end of Nasscom as a representative of the IT industry.

Further the Government should think if the proposed amendments are only of interest to Nasscom?. Are these not relevant to other ICT users?. Has the Government taken into confidence CII or Assocham or ITPF or other organizations who also have a stake in the legislation?. Has the MCIT consulted the Home Ministry and Police before finalizing the legislation? Has the impact of the amendments to “Prevention of terrorist activities” been given a due consideration?

In our considered opinion, the Government of India is making a serious mistake in allowing for the amendments to ITA-2000 go through without further major debate on the final version which will be tabled in the Parliament.  Unfortunately, Nasscom will be a party to this mistake.

It is our request that  Mr Kiran Karnik should take personal interest in making the final draft meant for approval of the parliament available for a prolonged debate in the public domain before any action is taken. I also invite the electronic media in India such as ND TV and CNN IBN which spend enormous time on discussing why Helen in “Old Don was better than Kareena Kapoor in the “New Don” to organize “Big Debates” and “Big Fights” in different cities in India and help gather proper feedback on the proposed amendments. People like Karan Thapar should put Mr Dayanidhi Maran and Kiran Karnik through the grill in his “Hard Talk” programme to justify how the new legislation is beneficial to the society and not an attempt to bail out one accused called baazee.com at the expense of the Digital society of India.

Details at Naavi.org

Naavi

October 27, 2006

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