Friday, June 6, 2014

Natgrid Must Be An Accountable Project Says Praveen Dalal

Even after more than 5 years of launch of the Natgrid project of India, the same has remained a non starter only. Despite spending many crore upon this crucial project, it has remained a failure only. There is no doubt that the successful implementation of Natgrid project depends upon numerous factors that are techno legal in nature. According to experts in this field, the Natgrid project of India needs techno legal implementation to be successful. Till now the Natgrid project has failed to address both technological and legal issues pertaining to the project.

Media reports have confirmed that Raghu Raman, the former CEO of Natgrid, would not be able to continue with the project as his contractual term has come to an end. Indian government is considering a new CEO for the Natgrid project. Obviously, the policies regarding Natgrid would also change and so would be its implementation strategy.

So what are the factors that have resulted in the failure of Natgrid project of India?  According to Praveen Dalal, managing partner of New Delhi based law firm Perry4Law and leading techno legal expert of Asia, NATGRID is an essential requirement for robust and effective intelligence agencies and law enforcement functions in India. The only requirement is to ensure that its abuses can be anticipated, prevented and remedied.

However, NATGRID cannot survive in the absence of “Political Will” to make it an effective and responsible tool. With the benefits of NATGRID come the issues of accountability and fairness in its operation. India must formulate adequate “Safeguards” before making NATGRID functional. The NATGRID project must not die like the other projects handled by India from time to time, opines Dalal. It seems the Natgrid project lacked all these attribute and this is the reason why it failed.

Lack of accountability and transparency are also responsible for poor intelligence related project implementations in India. According to Dalal “the Intelligence Agencies of India Need Parliamentary Oversight and the Intelligence Infrastructure of India needs Transparency and Strengthening. There should not be any “Legal Immunity” to Intelligence Agencies of India in the absence of Parliamentary Oversight and the system of “Using Executive Orders” to confer “Legitimacy” upon Intelligence Agencies must be abandoned as soon as possible by the Government.

There are crucial policy and legal issues of Natgrid project that previous government failed to notice. In fact, from the working of the previous government it is clear that it never wished to confer any legitimacy to law enforcement and intelligence agencies of India. This must be avoided by the BJP led government. 

As per the current home ministry’s  proposal, Natgrid will connect data providing organisations and users besides developing a legal structure through which information can be accessed by the law enforcement agencies. So there are some hints towards making Natgrid accountable towards Indian parliament. But only time will tell how Natgrid project would be handled by the new government.