Monday, June 9, 2014

Mandatory Or Effective Legal Framework For E-Governance Is Needed In India Says Praveen Dalal

E-governance cannot be attained till policy level changes are made in India. We have no dedicated e-governance law in India and some provisions pertaining to e-governance have been incorporated in the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act 2000). However, these provisions are not only defective but they are grossly inadequate according to Praveen Dalal, Managing Partner of Perry4Law and the Leading Techno-Legal Expert of India.

Dalal believes that India needs to repeal the IT Act, 2000 and enact appropriate and dedicated laws pertaining to ecommerce, e-governance, cyber law, cyber security, cyber forensics, telegraph and other similar fields. Presently all these areas have been stuffed into a single law known as IT Act, 2000. This has resulted in lack of a specialised legal framework for all these fields.

Even the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) believes that the IT Act 2000 must be replaced by a more suitable law. This seems to be in conformity with the suggestions of Dalal regarding repeal of Telegraph and Cyber Law of India.

As far as e-governance is concerned, we have no legal framework that requires mandatory e-governance services in India. As a result Indian government departments have nothing to loose even if they deliberately fail to comply with e-governance requirements suggests Dalal. For instance, most of the e-governance projects of India under the national e-governance plan (NEGP) are still in the pipeline despite the deadline being passed long before. This is despite the fact that thousand of crores of public money has already been utilised for e-governance projects of India but without any constructive and practical results.

This is happening because although the IT Act 2000 carries provisions pertaining to e-governance services in India yet they are “non mandatory” in nature. This has resulted in a poor e-governance services delivery in India. Till now we have no legal framework that mandates that citizens and organisations can claim e-governance as a matter of right, informs Dalal. There are many reasons for the failure of e-governance projects of India and an effective, time bound and accountable implementation alone can make Indian e-governance initiative successful, suggests Dalal.

Further, the scope of NEGP is very wide covering almost all aspects of governance - right from delivery of services and provision of information to business process re-engineering within the different levels of government and its institutions. It is essential that NEGP is implemented, monitored and regulated through a legal framework so that it is no more just a plan but reality. For instance, access to justice for marginalised people in India cannot be a reality till e-courts and online dispute resolution (ODR) are suitably and urgently introduced in India. Till June 2014 we are still waiting for the establishment of first e-court in India.

According to Dalal while implementing the NEGP, various structural and institutional issues have already arisen which clearly call for a statutory mandate for their resolution. The purpose would be to give statutory mandate to the institutional entities, setting up of a separate fund, defining responsibilities and providing for time frames and oversight mechanisms. According to Perry4Law, this legislation may, inter alia, contain provisions regarding the following:

(a) Definition of e-governance in the Indian context, its objectives and role,

(b) Coordination and oversight mechanisms, support structures at various levels, their functions and responsibilities,

(c) Role, functions and responsibilities of government organisations at various levels,

(d) Mechanism for financial arrangements including public-private partnership,

(e) Specifying the requirements of a strategic control framework for e-government projects dealing with statutory and sovereign functions of the government,

(f) Responsibility for selection and adoption of standards and inter-operability framework,

(g) Framework for cyber security, privacy protection, data security and data protection etc,

(h) Parliamentary oversight mechanism, and

(i) Mechanism for co-ordination between government organisations at Union and State levels.

The “hands off model” regarding e-governance in India has proved to be a big failure and a mandatory e-governance legal framework alone can bring successful e-governance services in India in the absence of a transparent and accountable government system, opines Dalal.