The Standing Committee of the Parliament on Information Technology has released its observations and recommendations as submitted in the Parliament on 21st December 2015. Some of the salient features relevant to the public are discussed here.
On Scrapping of Section 66A
The Committee has taken note that the Government expressed that it welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court in scrapping Section 66A since it supports “Freedom of Expression”.
With this the Government and the Committee has endorsed the erroneous decision of the Supreme Court without recognizing that Section 66A in no way addressed the “Freedom of Speech” issue but only addressed a “Message” between two persons using a communication device or an e-mail not to be threatening, harassing, causing annoyance, etc. The section which addressed several cyber crimes including cyber stalking, cyber bullying, phishing etc was thrown out by the Supreme Court under the wrong interpretation of law as it existed. Instead of opposing the decision, the Government surrendered to the erroneous decision and the Parliamentary committee ought to have pointed out this poor decision by the Government.
The Committee says that it would await the further action of the Government in this regard.
Further Amendments to ITA 2000/8
The committee has taken note that the Government has set up an “Expert Committee” under the chairmanship of Shri T K Vishwanathan who incidentally was the person who drafted the ITA 2000, to study and examine the existing domestic cyber laws and International cyber legislations and recommend a road map with measures and amendments to the present laws for consideration of the Government.
Committee also noted that the Home Ministry has set up another “Expert Committee” to prepare a road map for effectively tackling the Cyber Crimes in the country and give suitable recommendations on all facets of cyber crime.
Presently public are not aware of the “Experts” in this group. In the past, the “Experts” were mostly those who were close to the bureaucrats of MCIT and it was a cosy club of Delhi ites. Hope the Modi Government does not fall into the same routine.
The Committee has suggested that these two committees need to report the progress to this Parliamentary group. Hopefully the Committee would ensure that the two committees work in tandem and address the issues arising out of IOT, Big Data and other developments.
What the Parliamentary Committee Failed to do
Though the committee made a reference to the beta release of the “Digi Locker” scheme and cautioned the Government on security risks, the Committee has not recognized the points made out by Naavi.org in the past indicating that the Digi Locker Scheme and the CCA’s e-Sign notification appear non compliant with the existing ITA 2000/8. Naavi.org has also pointed out that the Karnataka Government passed a Bill on e-Governance which was contrary to ITA 2000/8. Such blunders of the Government were not recognized by the Parliamentary Committee and it appears that the secretariat has not made adequate research on the subject.
It is hoped that the Parliamentary Group headed by Mr Anurag Thakur will get better information from the market before it’s next report. The responsibility for such research should be boarne by the secretariat consisting of Shri K.Vijayakrishnan, (Additional Secretary), J.M.Baisakh (Director) and Dr Sagarika Dash (Deputy Secretary). I wish these executives peruse some of the points made out in Naavi.org in the past before advising the Parliamentarians. The report does not contain the contact details of these gentleman and I hope some reader will forward a copy of this note to them.