What started as an innocent comment on the social networking site Facebook, got the government, the media and the Supreme Court thinking whether the country is prepared to handle cyber offenses or we are still relying on draconian acts that vests unlimited power in the hands of police and local authorities.
Amid the debate over the current IT Act and certain sections of it, specially the Section 66 (A), Minister of State for IT and Communications Milind Deora tells Piyali Mandal of Business Standard that his government is open to reviewing the laws to make them more objective, if the need arises. Edited Excerpts:
There is a raging debate going on in the online and offline world over the need for scrapping certain sections of the current IT Act. What is your take on that? Do you think the current IT law needs to be reviewed?
We are open to making the IT Act dynamic and objective in tune with the changing times. However, as of now there are no talks related to changing any law. We are looking at cyber laws in other parts of the world and how we can modify it to fit the Indian context. It is an evolving process which is going to take time. We are also looking at how to make the existing laws more objective and close to perfection.
We are open to changes and suggestions. We don't think it's a hard and fast rule that has to be applied in the same way for the rest of history. If there is better wording that can be used in this or any other section, we are open to it.
We've never said that we have a closed mind.
Does that mean that the government looking at doing away with certain controversial sections of the Act?
We recently had a meeting of Cyber advisory committee where stakeholders from various agencies such as Nasscom, civil society were present. There were discussions on how we can stop the misuse of certain sections of the Act. But there was no discussion on the dropping certain sections or changing any existing law.
You said your government is studying the matter, have you formed a special team to look into the IT Act and come up with recommendations?
As I said it is an evolving process. We are looking into the matter. Our Ministry is looking at cyber laws in other parts of the globe. We are also trying to figure out how to make the laws in online and offline world more aligned.
Are you looking at issuing advisories explaining the sections?
No. The Law and the Sections are very clear. If some one misreads it or misinterprets it; its not the Ministry's problem. Wherever clarity is required we do issue advisories to prevent misuse. We issued guidelines with regard to the implementation of the section 66 (A) of the IT Act. According to the guidelines, before registering complaints under section 66 (A) of the IT Act, subordinate police officials will have to seek the approval from an officer in the rank of DCP in rural areas and IG in metros. We are constantly trying to improve on the existing laws.