Under flak for the new Internet rules which are being interpreted as an attack on privacy of a user, the government while clarifying the rules questioned the why critics were silent when the draft rules were opened for public opinion.

R Chandrashekhar, Secretary in the Department of Information Technology, in an interaction with PTI said views from all stakeholders were taken and the best practices prevalent globally were incorporated in the new rules.

He said the government cannot allow complete insulation to anyone from any illegitimate activity which involves a body or person and hence the rules were framed to fix the liability on service providers, intermediaries, bodies looking after details of users, and users.

“The rules were made to define that liability and restrict that liability and that has been precisely done,” Chandrashekhar clarified.

The new IT rules implemented by the government since April 11 allow the government agencies to obtain sensitive information of users like their passwords, sexual orientation, medical records, bank account details etc from service providers.

These details could be demanded by the law enforcement agencies for verification of identity, or for prevention, detection, investigation, including cyber incidents, prosecution, and punishment of offences after getting due authorisation from the government.

The procedure adopted by the agencies can be either through the government approval or by court orders mandating them to seek such personal details in case of investigation or prosecution in cases.

Chandrashekhar said that these information can be accessed by the government agencies only under legal authorisation and for lawful purpose.

“Their is absolutely no intention to put restriction on speech through these rules at all,” he said.

Chandrashekhar refuted industry apprehensions on another rule which mandates that any objectionable content on a website or a computer should be removed within 36 hours of it being noticed.

This rule has been criticised by the industry as companies fear that they will have to increase manpower to keep a watch on the content being posted on their portals or servers, especially when most websites are becoming interactive.

Certain sections of society and the industry said that this could restrain free flow of information and hence gag freedom of speech.

However, Chandrashekhar said that the notification issued for implementation of new rule defines the objectionable content and clearly says that the content should be removed when the service provider notices it or is informed by the affected person.

The secretary said department is open to make changes in the language of law if it is giving rise to any misconception about the intent of the act.

However, Chandrashekhar questioned the silence of critics at the time rules were being framed.

“The draft of the rule was on the website for two months.It was public and shared with everybody. Comments were solicited and received. Why you (critics) did not raise these issues at that point of time and give that particular feedback?” he quipped.


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June 2021