Naavi.org has been advocating some agency to address protection of the rights of Netizens. Digital Society Foundation as well as the Cyber Crime Complaints and Resolution Assistance Center which is part of the activities of Naavi.org is trying to provide some guidance to innocent victims of Cyber Crimes. However these NGO like efforts cannot provide the complete support to people who have been the victim of Cyber Crimes and are unable to  get the necessary support from the Police. There are also a few incidents where Police have purusued false cases on innocent IT professionals where Naavi.org has not been able to provide relief. The need for a statutorily empowered agency to protect abuse of ITA 2000 in India was therefore a felt need for quite some time.

Though one can argue that the NHRC itself can provide such assistance, it is difficult for the present set up of NHRC to provide the kind of assistance sought by Netizens affected by Cyber Crimes. Therefore a separate agency to take care of the Netizen’s rights is desirable.

The need for such an agency has now become imperative with the amendments to Information technology Act 2000 conferring omnibus powers to the Government to

a) intercept, monitor or decrypt or cause to be intercepted or monitored or decrypted any information transmitted, received or stored through any computer resource (Section 69)

b) block access by the public or cause to be blocked for access by public any information generated, transmitted, received stored or hosted in any computer resource(Sec 69A)

c) monitor and collect traffic data or information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource (Sec 69B)

These powers can be exercised by an agency to be designated for the purpose and will apply in cases where there is a threat to national security as well as commission of any cognizable crime. (For details, see the article: Concern for Privacy Rights Vs National Security- The Ground Realities)

While such powers are required by law enforcement agencies to assist their fight against Cyber Terrorism and Cyber Wars there is a real concern amongst people about the possible misuse of the provisions particularly by the Police.

The challenge however is to bestow our law enforcement with the powers required with checks and balances to prevent misuse and abuse.

Now that the Act has been passed without any debate, the next control point would be when the rules are notified. If concerned individuals do not act now, there will be no other occasion when it can be taken up again. Naavi.org had called upon our Members of Parliament to ensure that a proper debate takes place in the Parliament but unfortunately none of our honourable MPs devoted attention on the Bill and the Government also unfairly pushed the Bill through without debate as it feared that the Bill may lapse if not passed in this session.

I therefore urge all concerned persons to utilize the opportunity where the Government has to notify an agency for the purpose of implementation of the responsibilities under Sections 69, 69A and 69 B before the law takes effect.

We suggest that the agency which may be called National Netizen’s Rights Commission or Indian Netizen’s Rights Commission  be set up and  given the statutory authority to address abuse of any powers under ITA 2000. The commission should also make use of suitable accredited private bodies to help it discharge its duties such as monitoring the activities of the law enforcement agencies so that suo motu action can be initiated when required. Once the concept of a NNRC is accepted, we can give some more thought to the ideal constitution of the body. The least we need to do is to create a separate wing of NHRC to focus on complaints arising out of ITA 2000 abuse.

The ITA 2000 analysis forum under Naavi.org would invite suggestions to be collated and forwarded to the appropriate authorities in the Government.

We need to act now or it will be too late.
naavi of naavi.org

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