The IT Amendment Bill 2008 has been passed by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in the last week of December, 2008. The said Bill aims to make sweeping changes in the existing Indian cyberlaw, namely the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The Information Technology Act, 2000 is India’s mother legislation regulating the use of computers, computer systems and computer networks as also data and information in the electronic format. The said legislation has provided for the legality of the electronic format as well as electronic contracts. This legislation has touched varied aspects pertaining to electronic authentication, digital signatures, cybercrimes and liability of network service providers.
From 17th October, 2000 , when the IT Act, 2000 came into implementation till date, the said legislation has seen some very interesting cases and challenges, being brought within its ambit. As time passed by, the inadequacies of the said legislation came to the forefront. There were various practical difficulties in the implementation of the said legislation. The inadequacy of the IT Act, 2000 to address some of the emerging phenomena, challenges and cybercrimes, led to voices clamouring for change in the Indian cyberlaw.
Consequently, the Government of India tabled the Information Technology Amendment Bill, 2006 before both the houses of Parliament in December, 2006, which referred the said amendment bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology. The Parliamentary Standing Committee examined the proposed amendments in a comprehensive manner and thereafter gave its report and recommendations thereon.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology headed by Shri Nikhil Kumar, MP did an excellent job in terms of producing its exhaustive recommendations. These recommendations were noteworthy for their fore vision and clarity of thought process. Way back in 2007, the Standing Committee had recommended that the entire menace of cyber terrorism needs to be addressed with a strong hand.
After examining the said recommendations, the Central Government brought the Information Technology Amendment Bill, 2008 in Parliament, which got passed by both the houses of Parliament.
Given the magnitude of the amendments, it is indeed strange and amazing that this Bill was passed in an unprecedented hurry, without any discussion in both the houses of the Parliament in the last week of December, 2008.
The IT Amendment Act 2008 brings about various sweeping changes in the existing Cyberlaw. While the lawmakers have to be complemented for their appreciable work removing various deficiencies in the Indian Cyberlaw and making it technologically neutral, yet it appears that there has been a major mismatch between the expectation of the nation and the resultant effect of the amended legislation. The most bizarre and startling aspect of the new amendments is that these amendments seek to make the Indian cyberlaw a cyber crime friendly legislation; - a legislation that goes extremely soft on cyber criminals, with a soft heart; a legislation that chooses to encourage cyber criminals by lessening the quantum of punishment accorded to them under the existing law; a legislation that chooses to give far more freedom to cyber criminals than the existing legislation envisages; a legislation which actually paves the way for cyber criminals to wipe out the electronic trails and electronic evidence by granting them bail as a matter of right; a legislation which makes a majority of cybercrimes stipulated under the IT Act as bailable offences; a legislation that is likely to pave way for India to become the potential cyber crime capital of the world.
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