Advisory Committee or Secretaries Club?

One of the brightest aspects of the ITA-2000 was the provision to have an apex advisory body called the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee.

Section 88 of the Act states as under:

Constitution of Advisory Committee: 

  (1)  The Central Government shall, as soon as may be after the commencement of this Act, constitute a Committee called the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee.

  (2)  The Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee shall consist of a Chairperson and such number of other official and non-official members representing the interests principally affected or having special knowledge of the subject-matter as the Central Government may deem fit.

  (3)  The Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee shall advise - 

  (a) the Central Government either generally as regards any rules or for any   other purpose connected with this Act;

(b) the Controller in framing the regulations under this Act 

The section  captures an intention that the committee would consist of industry experts who are expected to guide the Government and the Controller regarding all aspects of the law. It is important to note that the section uses the words "representing the interests principally affected". This is a clear indication that the framers of the Act envisaged that there would be industry representation from those sections such as the IT industry, the Dot.Com industry, the Lawyer community etc.

The rules however has indicated the following constitution for the committee.

Minister, Information Technology
2 Secretary, Legislative Department Member
3 Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology Member
4 Secretary, Department of Telecommunications  Member
5 Secretary, Ministry of Defense Member
6 Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs Member
7 Secretary, Ministry of Commerce  Member
8 Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India Member
9 Shri T K Vishwanathan, Presently Member Secretary, Law Commission Member
10 President, NASSCOMM Member
11 President, Internet Service Providers Association Member
12 Director, Central Bureau of Investigation Member
13 Controller of Certifying Authority  Member
14 Director General, Police from any State Member
15 Director, IIT Delhi  Member
16 Representative of CII  Member
17 Representative of FICII Member
18 Representative of ASSOCHAM Member
19 Senior Director, Ministry of Information Technology Member Secretary

The committee as constituted is totally bureaucratic constitution. Excepting Shri T.K.Vishwanathan, and three members who may be nominated by the industry bodies, every other member is an ex-officio member. Considering the current configuration, even these bodies would nominate their members in some ex-officio capacity so that they will have an opportunity to interact with the powers-be in Delhi.

There is no display of vision or concern for the development of the Cyber society  evident in the constitution of the committee. 

It is sad that a great opportunity has been lost to set up a committee of experts who could have guided the Ministry in formulating the policies that could have taken the country ahead. Instead, with the minister himself heading the committee and all the secretaries around him the committee would not be able to do anything other than what could have been achieved in a inter ministerial meeting. It is not clear why this model was adopted instead of the TRAI or IRA model or the IT Task force model.

 I urge NASSCOM and all the right thinking persons to get the proposed rules scraped so that a re-look can be ordered. It doesn't matter even if the implementation of the Act is delayed due to this. What we should remember is that ITA-2000 is a fundamental law that will define the rules of the digital society. We cannot allow the golden opportunity of creating a good law for the digital society be frittered away.

 P.S: A copy of the Rules is available on the site of the Ministry of Information and Technology


August 18,2000