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May 16, 2000
Indian law-makers approve IT Bill amid pleas to go slow
The Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) today unanimously approved the Information Technology Bill, after the government accepted 34 amendments suggested by the concerned standing committee.
After the reply by Information Technology Minister Pramod Mahajan and intervention by Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley, the House rejected by voice vote the amendments moved by Marxist members Rupchand Pal and V Radhakrishnan.
Mahajan conceded that there was the possibility of misuse of section 79 which gives powers to a deputy superintendent of police, or DSP, to conduct search raids without warrants. He, however, said that removing this provision would amount to bringing the code of criminal procedure into force which permits even a constable to conduct raids.
In his brief reply to a discussion where the bill received unanimous support though the opposition felt there was undue haste, Mahajan said punishing the Internet service provider for a crime committed by a user would not be judicious, and could turn the law into a draconian measure.
At the outset, Mahajan said it was possible that the bill appeared to have been brought in haste, but it was his first 'baby' in his present portfolio. He said it was clear that the intervention by Jaitley - who is a noted lawyer - was successful as could be seen 'from the changed atmosphere today.'
Mahajan admitted that there may be some flaws in this legislation but these could be overcome through amendments after watching its implementation for some time.
The minister strongly criticised the print media for creating an erroneous impression about the provisions relating to registration of cyber cafes or portals. He said the media had unfortunately created the impression that the government had backed out from these provisions.
However, the truth was that these were never there in the original bill and had only been suggested by the Standing Committee on Science and Technology as section 73a and 73b.
He said the present need was to take the information technology revolution to the masses, from the cities to the villages, and from English to Indian languages.
He said that there should be proper 'e-governance' and regulated 'e-commerce'.
Earlier, speaking in the resumed discussion today, Congress members Satyavrat Chaturvedi and Santosh Mohan Deb clarified that there was no opposition to the bill in principle, but the members had not had time to study it and thus it should not have been passed in haste.
The bill would have far-reaching effects in several other laws and, therefore, needed more careful consideration.
Both members said it could not be denied that the bill was a necessity in today's environment and the nation would be left behind if it did not move with the times. They said the blanket powers to the police needed to be restrained as these could be misused, and Chaturvedi said section 83 even gave immunity to the DSP. He wanted to know how section 74 could be useful in countries with which India did not have any extradition treaty. (Chaturvedi apologised when the speaker referred to an unparliamentary expression used by him, which was struck off the record.)
Other members also wanted the bill to be kept till the next session as there were no urgent provisions, and there could be a national debate.
IT Bill to be implemented by August 15, if approved by Parliament
The epoch-making information technology legislation will be implemented by Independence Day this year after it is approved by Parliament.
Information Technology Minister Pramod Mahajan said in an informal chat that this time was needed for getting the assent of the President and then for framing the rules and regulations under the legislation.
He denied the charge that the legislation had been brought in haste and said members had had ample time to study the legislation and to make suggestions.
Meanwhile, ministerial sources said that the ministry was formed only in October last year, the bill had been introduced in Parliament by mid-December and sent to the Standing Committee on Science and Technology as early as December 17. However, the report of the standing committee was received only on May 12 and then taken to the cabinet after considering the suggested amendments, before being moved for consideration in the Lok Sabha yesterday.
FICCI hails passage of IT Bill in Lok Sabha
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or FICCI, today hailed passage of the IT Bill in Lok Sabha saying that it has put in place a comprehensive cyber law which will boost commercial transactions through e-commerce and other Internet-enabled services.
FICCI president G P Goenka welcomed the government's move in omitting the harsh provisions from the bill which were likely to have to harassment, such as, compulsory registration of Web sites and maintaining the register of people who are visiting the cyber sites.
World over it is recognised that for policing cyber crimes certain level of sophistication and skill are required. Therefore, it is necessary that a dedicated and skilled cadre of techno-literate cyber police be formed at the earliest that will understand Internet crimes and protect people from victims.
Goenka said with a legal framework for cyber business in place, all Internet-related transactions will get a phenomenal push. India can increasingly tap the enormous opportunities in e-commerce, e-trading, e-banking and e-speak.
Goenka said the benefits of the IT revolution should be mass based and taken to villages so that all sections of the society including farmers and under privileged should get access to the services. This would generate a large number of jobs, opportunities down the line as service providers through kiosks and other it related activities.
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