Thursday, January 20, 2011

Legal Enablement Of ICT Systems In India Is Missing

One of the biggest drawbacks of Indian e-governance initiatives is absence of legal enablement of ICT systems in India. This is one of the main reasons why almost all the mission mode projects (MMPs) under the national e-governance plan (NEGP) of India have failed to materialise.

Another drawback pertains to lack of will and expertise to implement these MMPs. India is not willing to improve its digital delivery of governmental services and upgrade its e-readiness. All India is doing is announcing various projects under NEGP without actually implementing and successfully completing the same.

The problem is that India has no mandatory legal requirements under which the citizens can claim e-services as a matter of right. Neither the information technology act 2000 nor any other law allows an action against government or its agencies in case of failure to achieve a time bound performance or failure to provide e-services.

Interestingly, digital preservation and digitilisation of records is also absent even if right to information act 2005 mandates doing so. However, in the absence of legal enablement of ICT systems in India, nothing is moving in the right direction.

As a result the objectives of transparency, eradication of corruption, time bound results, etc have failed to materialise. Even on the legal and judicial fronts, technology has failed to find a place. We do not have even a single e-court in India. Further, our legal system and arbitration law does not use innovative methods like online dispute resolution (ODR) and e-courts.

Te problem lies at the policy level. For instance, even the national litigation policy of India (NLPI) is silent about e-courts establishment and use of ODR within a fixed period of time. All these factors have resulted in a complete denial of legal enablement of ICT systems in India and corresponding e-delivery of services to Indian citizens.