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Information Technology Laws – Are They Archaic

Information Technology Laws – Are They Archaic

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2- Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Information Technology Laws – Are They Archaic

India is one of the most important and fastest-growing digital economies, with over 560 million connected internet users. The internet, apart from offering access to information, represents opportunities for India and Indians for economic, cultural and social empowerment.

Archaic laws:

The Information Technology Act, 2000 is of a bygone era.

It is said that it is ill-equipped to meet the needs of a 21st-century internet economy.

Section 69A is one such example, where public access to information online has been blocked on several occasions.

It is seen as an archaic/outdated legal regime, detached from changing times.

Even though the Constitutional validity of the section was upheld by the Supreme Court stating that it is narrowly drawn with several safeguards, in practice, it is used extensively and in a non-transparent manner. 

What is needed:

  •  It should be made that only that content which falls foul of meeting the test of
  • sovereignty and integrity of India
  • defence of India
  • security of the State
  • friendly relations with foreign states or public order
  • preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above” should be blocked/banned.
  • Constitutional rights under Article 19(1) namely, the right to freedom of speech, expression, information, and the right to carry on trade and business are sacrosanct.
  • Any action/intervention must follow the Constitutional spirit.
  • This requires an in-built mechanism which flows from the mandate of ‘due process.’
  • The tension between fundamental rights on the one hand and restrictions/ limitations on the other must be resolved through ‘balancing’.
  • This balancing exercise has been done, keeping in view the changing digital landscape/ecosystem will, in turn, be in sync with the endeavour/goal of becoming a thriving digital economy.

Due process:

  • ‘Due process’ requires effective consultation/collaboration process with stakeholders and experts in matters of technology, economy, and consumer rights.
  • A just and fair procedure with a full opportunity to an affected person of being heard/represented must be provided before an order is passed.
  • This should be followed by an independent review and appeal mechanism.
  • This will address the situation of triggering extreme measures like blocking/banning.

Graded responses/ safeguards

  • Principle-based safeguards can ensure a calibrated and proportionate approach.
  • All non-blocking options must be exhausted before restricting access to a website, which is a measure of the last resort.
  • Blocked content and the underlying reasons for such blocking must be disclosed to the public, which will ensure transparency and due consideration before the blocking order is passed.
  • A graded approach must take into account key factors such as fairness and adequate safeguards.
  • This requires striking the right balance between fundamental rights of the parties, third parties and the general public, and a consideration of whether the relief sought includes measures that safeguard against abuse.

The bedrock of the Constitution is the basic feature which is protected forever; by analogy, the internet (connectivity, communication and information) has its own unique basic structure, which must be kept intact as an integral part of internet governance.

Source:”Financial express”.

Possible UPSC Mains Question:

Are India’s Information technology laws archaic? Is there a need to reform them? Why?