Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Draft Electronic Service Delivery Bill, 2011

This is the updated version of my previous article on similar topic. Electronic services delivery is a very effective method of transparent, efficient and timely delivery of public services. However, it is also a complicated procedure that has to take care of many techno legal aspects.

Electronic services delivery or e-delivery in India cannot succeed till it is operating both ways, i.e. from government to citizens (G2C) and from citizen to government (C2G). This is one area where India has failed miserably. There is no use of formulating documents/Bills if Indian government cannot implement the same. For instance, e-delivery of services in India cannot succeed till it is made mandatory.

Take the example of section 9 of the information technology act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000). Section 9 of the IT Act 2000 provides that nothing contained in section 6, 7 and 8 shall be confer a right upon any person to insist that any Ministry or Department of the Central Government or the State Government or any authority or body established by or under any law or controlled or funded by the Central or State Government should accept, issue, create, retain and preserve any document in the form of electronic records or effect any monetary transaction in the electronic form.

Section 6 of the IT Act, 2000 deal with the use of electronic records and digital signatures in government and its agencies. Section 7 of the IT Act 2000 deals with retention of electronic records. Section 8 of the IT Act, 2000 deals with publication of rule, regulation, etc. in Electronic Gazette.

Section 9 says that none can claim these services as a matter of right. For Indian citizens it’s a disabling provision and for Indian government it is deliberately formulated self defensive mechanism. Indian government lacks the will power to empower Indian citizens and residents electronically. Even after 11 years of formulation of the IT Act, 2000 Indian government is not confident and willing to provide mandatory e-governance services in India.

This is clear from the recent draft electronic services delivery bill, 2011 of India (ESD Bill 2011). However, the real problem with Indian E-Governance Initiatives in general and proposed ESD Bill 2011 in particular is that Legal Framework for Mandatory Electronic Services Delivery in India is missing from it, says Praveen Dalal, Supreme Court lawyers and Managing Partner of India’s exclusive techno legal law firm Perry4Law.

E-governance is very useful for bringing transparency and efficiency in delivery of public services. E-governance also helps in reducing corruption and red tappism. The 11 years of Indian e-governance failed to bring any impact upon growing corruption in Indian governmental dealing. This is the reason why Jan Lokpal Bill 2011 has been suggested.
However, the Jan Lokpal Bill of India 2011 or any other proposed Lokpal Bill of India must be strong and effective to deal with widespread corruption of India. This is more so when e-governance in India has failed and has become itself a source of corruption.

I have serious doubts that with these conditions, India would be able to capatilise the benefits of e-governance and mobile governance. Let us hope the State governments and Cabinet would reject the proposed ESD Bill 2011 for the larger interest of India.

Similarly, there is an urgent need to bring accountability for the funds that India receive for providing e-delivery of services and other technological services. Surprisingly, all such funds and grants are utilised upon e-governance projects that exist on files only. What is more surprising is why there is no accountability and transparency for the money claimed to be spent on such projects. Even the draft electronic services delivery bill 2011 failed to address these issues. I hope the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) intervenes immediately for the larger interests of India.