15 December 1998
This note was sent to me yesterday by Abhay Kushwaha. He forwards a newspaper story describing a draft bill covering many facets of Internet policy, including provisions to monitor all Net traffic passing through any Indian ISP, whether plain-text or encrypted. This bill portends nothing good for the future of the Internet in India.
Kushwaha adds that he wants to hear what other Indians have to say about this proposal. Please write to him directly at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Date: Mon, 14 Dec 1998 13:46:36 +0530 To: TBTF <email@example.com> From: "A.S.Kushwaha" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Indian Information Technology Act, 1998 Dear Keith, Here is something interesting I read this morning in the newspaper. Indian goverment is planning to pass a new law - Information Technology Act, 1998 in which they have not only put the much needed clauses on copyright, etc. but also mail interception/monitoring, etc. !! The following is the complete report titled 'Govt. set to police cyber highways' as it appeared in Indian Express (Chandigarh Edition, Dec 14, frontpage): New Delhi, Dec 13 If the BJP has its way with the new Cyber Laws, the government will be empowered to intercept any Internet message, coded or otherwise, and keep a tab on all websites created by subscribers. So, pornogr- aphic sites are out, so is Internet telephony. Set to be introduced in current session Parliament, the new laws put a government-appointed Central Authority Controller at the helm of cyber affairs in the country. The draft Bill - to be called Information Technology Act, 1998 once okayed - has been finalised by the Department of Electronics (DoE) and sent to the Law Ministry for clearance. It will then be forwarded to the Cabinet for approval. The Act provides for interception of messages coming through any Internet Services Provider (ISP) and not just through Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL). In case of encrypted messages, the onus to decode will rest with the sender. This, DoE sources said, is to safe-guard the country's security. The Act also entails the government to issue fresh guidelines on security management. Intelligence and security agencies - the Central Bureau of Investi- gation (CBI), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) - will have dedicated lines to intercept messages for "valid reasons of security" but will require the permission of the Central Authority Controller. According to DoE secretary Ravindra Gupta, the Information Technology Act, 1998 will also ensure security of information. For that, a system of "distant signature" will be introduced, which is like a user password. If the user hands over his password to someone else, he will be liable for punishment. Sources said the Act will facilitate electronics commerce and will cover electronic contract, providing for the electronic form to give legal validity to information. Moreover, the Act will have comprehensive provisions to tackle computer offences. This will entail amendment of existing laws including the Indian Evidence Act, Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, Banker's Act, Section 29 of the Indian Penal Code, Income Tax Act and the Copyright Act. Those accused of computer offences will be tried by special courts - and not civil courts - to be constituted under the Act. As for pornographic sites and Internet telephony, it will be the responsi- bility of the ISP to ensure that these can't be assessed. India is among the last countries, even in Asia, to introduce cyber laws. The process of formulating cyber laws began when the Commission on Review of Administrative Laws - set up in May - made a recommendation to the DoE saying such laws were needed keeping in mind the action plan for information technology. ---end of report--- I'd like to hear what other Indians on your list have to say about this. Please include my e-mail address: 'email@example.com' [abhay]