It is 17th October once again. The day is of significance to all Cyber Space watchers in India since it was on this day in the year 2000 India notified the Information Technology Act 2000 (ITA 2000) bringing in legal recognition for digital documents, digital signing and digital contracts.
Unfortunately this anniversary has not been a day to rejoice since there is an increasing feeling that India is fast turning out to be a Cyber Jungle. On the one hand the Government is having no concern for Netizen welfare but is doing everything to misuse the Internet for its own political interests.
The first aspect that strikes us is the continued absence of the Chair Person at the Cyber Appellate Tribunal with Mr Kapil Sibal refusing to appoint a replacement to the previous Chair person who retired on June 30, 2011. It is not as if Mr Sibal is unmindful of the requirement under the responsibilities cast on him as the Union Law Minister trying to defend the UPA ministers and the PM from all the scams that they have been accused of having been indulging in in the last 9 years of their UPA model of Governance. The problem is that he wants just one specific person to be appointed as the Chair Person and it appears that the Chief Justice of India is not in agreement with the choice. Mr Sibal is holding his fort and saying “My Choice or No Choice”.
In the bargain the apex judicial authority that has to take the appeals from the adjudicators of all States and Union Territories is remaining closed for business. Victims of Cyber Crimes such as Mr S.Umashankar and several others are waiting for Mr Kapil Sibal to see reason. Recently Karnataka High Court heard a PIL on the delay in the appointment of the Chair Person. However after several months of futile proceedings the Court ended up the proceeding with just a word of advice to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology that they should complete the process of appointment within a reasonable time. It is unlikely that such a reasonable time will not come before the next Loksabha elections. It is unfortunate that our Judicial System has also failed in this case to respond to the woes of the common men who are suffering because of this lack of Cyber Judiciary in India and gives a long rope to the Government to continue to be in power without working.
To Compound the problem, in a State like Karnataka, the decision of the Adjudicator Mr M.N.Vidyashankar that “no Company can take recourse or No Company can be accused under Sec 43 of ITA 2008” has made most of ITA 2008 in-effective in the State of Karnataka. Since Sec 43 is linked to Section 66, the judicial precedent set by this Adjudicator is that no Cyber Crime under Section 66 can be recognized against a Company or on a Company. This decision got a relief of a possible liability of around Rs 50 lakhs to Axis Bank which is a Government Contractor for the State’s E -Governance department also headed by the same official indicating the possibility of vested interest influence in corrupting the decision. Karnataka High Court again failed when it had an opportunity for correcting the anomaly.
The undersigned has now represented to the Chief Minister of the State to take necessary action to avoid Karnataka being branded as the “Cyber Crime Heaven”.
Under these circumstances, the 13th Anniversary day of ITA 2008 has to go down as one of the most depressing anniversaries since 2000.
We however hope that things would change in 2014 when there would possibly be a change of Government at the center.
It is necessary however to point out that while politicians have their own reasons to play foul, the officials often fail to resist the politicians and take decisions that should help the society. The plight of the ex-Coal secretary Mr Parakh who remained silent and allowed the scam to take place and is now finding himself in the docks is a reminder to the officials of the IT Ministry that if they think they are honest but remain silent when things are going wrong around them, they may also soon find themselves in the same discomfort as what Mr Parakh is finding himself in today. If they realize that their duty is to the society and not only to their political masters of the day, Indian Citizens/Netizens would be happier.