Thursday, January 20, 2011

PMO Must Ensure A New Cyber Law For India

India took a good step in 2000 by enacting the information technology act, 2000 (IT Act 2000). It was a futuristic step in the field of law making in India. Since this was the first time India was enacting a full fledged technology law, some deficiencies were natural.

However, what is not natural is that these deficiencies must be kept in the law even after 10 years of its enactment. Even further worst is the fact that cyber law of India has been made cyber criminals friendly by making almost all the cyber crimes bailable.

For instance, if a person cracks your e-mail account or online banking account, the courts have to release him on bail as a matter of right. He cannot be put in jail and he would go free even after committing the offence of cracking (read hacking) in India. This equally applies to almost all other cyber crimes that can be committed against you.

Somewhere in 2006 the process of amending the IT Act 2000 started. But the very purpose and foundation of such amendments was based upon industrial lobbying and exonerating the multi national e-commerce companies from the punishments under the IT Act, 2000.

This exercise cumulated into the information technology amendment act 2008 (IT Act 2008) that was finally made enforceable in 2009. From here started the real problem because it is this amendment that made almost all cyber crimes and contraventions bailable.

Another drawback of IT Act 2008 is that it gave illegal and unconstitutional e-surveillance, e-interceptions and snooping powers without procedural safeguards and guidelines. Civil liberties like right to speech and expression, right to privacy, etc have been totally violated without due process in India.

In fact, till now India does not have a “Constitutionally Valid” Phone Tapping, E-Surveillance and Lawful Interception Law, informs Praveen Dalal a Supreme Court Lawyer and Leading Techno Legal Expert of India. The Executive Branch of Constitution of India has literally “Hijacked the Constitutional Safeguards” and this Era can be safely termed as an “Electronic Emergency” of India, laments Dalal.

After the 2G scam prime minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh has started taking interest in ministry of communication and information technology (MCIT). However, he must also make it sure that the present cyber law of India is cured from the ailments of industrial lobbying and e-surveillance. He must direct the MCIT to urgently draft a new, better and comprehensive cyber law for India. Let us hope for the best in this regard.