ASSOCHAM has surprised Cyber Law observers in India with its strong Press Release dated 4th February 2009,  urging the Government not to enact ITA 2000 amendments since it does not provide “Data Protection”. It has also acted with alacrity calling for a workshop on 5th February 2009 to discuss the issues.

This show of commitment to get a “Data Protection Friendly ITA 2000” is very strange since in the past ASSOCHAM did not evince any interest on the legislation particularly over the last three years when Naavi.org and a few others have been crying hoarse on the proposed amendments.

When the amendments were first proposed by an expert committee followed by a version of the amendment bill presented to the Parliament in 2006, Naavi.org called the proposal “Criminal Friendly” and that  the “Amendments will turn a Tiger into a Pussy Cat” (Please see the series of articles written on ITAA 2005). In the three years from August 2005 to December 2008, when discussions were raging on the amendments, ASSOCHAM did not think the proposed legislation did not help Data Protection or it was Criminal friendly. Now suddenly, it feels so when most of us have started hinting that the amendments were perhaps too stingent and in some parts even draconian.

Though agreeing with the need for a strong law in the current circumstances, Naavi.org has been urging that there is a need for appropriate safeguards against abuse of the law and hence is pressing for a “National Netizen’s Rights Commission”, “State Netizen Rights Advisory Board” etc.

Today’s article in Indian Express titled “Yes, Snooping is Allowed“, highlights the concern.

ASSOCHAM has not made public its report which leads to the drastic conclusion. We feel that Section 43A which provides compensation for data security breach Section 72A which provides criminal liabilities for data security breach, the definition of “Sensitive Personal Data” and “Reasonable Security Practices” will together provide some framework for data protection which was hiter to absent. Even Sections 69, 69A and 69 B can be used for ensuring investigation and prosecution of data criminals.

So the statement that the amendments do not provide data protection is not founded on sound grounds. We  lookforward to more information from ASSOCHAM on why it is leading the path of recommending withdrawal of the Bill. ( Naavi.org did say that the Bill should be returned by the President immediately after December 23 2008, for the reasons that the Bill was not debated and the details were not available for public scrutiny. It was only later that it was found that substantial changes have occurred between the earlir version of the Bill and what was passed and hence, there was no reason for us to continue the demand. On the other hand, Naavi is now working on the setting up of appropriate safeguards to prevent possible abuse of the law.)

The current view taken by ASSOCHAM gives raise to the thought that probably the vested interests who wanted an “Intermediary Friendly legislation” and were aghast at the current provisions which under various sections and under Section 67 C in particular have now started firing from the shoulders of the ASSOCHAM to get the Bill further amended.

We trust ASSOCHAM would throw open its study which leads to such a conclusion for the public to evaluate. It does not augur well for the reputation of ASSOCHAM to take a view which is neither in the interest of the security of the nation nor for upholding the Privacy rights of the Netizens.

Naavi of Naavi.org

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