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Indian Information Technology Act, 1998
From TBTF for 1998-12-15



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 <abhay@kushwaha.com>.


    Date: Mon, 14 Dec 1998 13:46:36 +0530
    To: TBTF <dawson@world.std.com>
    From: "A.S.Kushwaha" <abhay@kushwaha.com>
    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: 'abhay@kushwaha.com'
    
    [abhay]

[ TBTF for 1998-12-15 ]