Information Technology Laws & Policy in J&K

Representational Photo [Source: Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay]

The Information Technology Act (IT Act) is made applicable to the whole country including J&K. One of the potential reasons for its applicability appears to be the broadest scope of cybernetics, which is transnational in nature but territorial in operation. The primary advantages of this are that it facilitates direct application of all satellite legislations on IT such as RTI and Copyright legislations to UToJ&K.  Internet now a day has emerged to be a widely recognized medium for communication and source of digital empowerment for development. It allows people to access information throughout the world. Furthermore, it acts a boon for the people lagging in developmental pace by bringing proximity and stability to them.

Information Technology Act, 2000: The IT Act, 2000 includes within its ambit electronic commerce, electronic communication, electronic data interchange and cybercrime in India. It offers legal recognition for transactions carried out by e-commerce, e-banking, and e-governance, and is based on the UNCITRAL model law. The complexities of the cyberspace have prompted various amendments in the IT enabled legislations resulting in further developments. This law has brought some significant changes in India Penal Code, 1860 India Evidence Act, 1872 & RBI Act, 1940. In terms of cyber offence, violation, and remedies, the enforcement of the IT Act of 2000 has been the subject of litigation at both the national and transnational levels. Going by the trends, it is clear that this law has not succeeded in data privacy and usage of internet which resulted in increased  cybercrimes in India and UToJ&K such as stalking, hacking, hijacking, harassment, pornography, obscenity, defamation, assault threat, scam, trolling, morphing, spoofing and cyber phishing. However, the Act has some positive aspects as well which includes legal recognition of the electronic commerce & transactions. Prior to IT Act, there was neither legal infrastructure to regulate online commercial transactions nor a legal redressal mechanism for cybercrimes. E-mail was also not accepted as legal form of communication. Enactment of IT Act changed all this. It provided a complaint mechanism related to technological offences, which are punishable & are dealt with by cyber police and gives privacy to personal data and information.

J&K IT/ITeS POLICY 2020: Information Technology policy for the UToJ&K was adopted by Government Order No: 41JK-ITD of 2020. Its preamble is constructive in terms of physical infrastructure growth, as well as enhancing citizens’ quality of life and infrastructure. The policy enumerates for social equity means to improve in health care empowering women rural & tribal areas. Some of the prominent objective of the policy is to increase digital literacy, IT infrastructure, Tourism, safe cyberspace for all citizens& to create employment besides this the policy attempts to develop IT industry to support electronic governance initiatives to attract investment in J&K.

Prevalence of Cyber Crime: In today’s world, everybody has unrestricted access to the internet and internet-connected appliances. Online shopping, money transfer, paying taxes, paying bills, sharing of information reliant on internet is rapidly rising. Technology is enclosing every aspects of life. On the one hand life becomes easy yet on the other side it results in increase in cyber crimes. The IT Act, however, does not define the word “cybercrime.” It is commonly described as an illegal activity carried out with the aid of a computer and internet. Similarly, the National Crime Records Bureau defines cyber criminals as persons who perform cyber-crimes to earn money, to become famous, to just have fun, to sexually exploit someone, to blackmail someone, for developing own business, for selling, purchasing illegal contents & so on. Even though there are antivirus software’s, firewall, and other technological protection of data, information & computer networks yet the instances of cyber crimes is increasing. The experienced users of information technology are not attentive of cyber victimisation. The cyber security depends on the knowledge of internet and preventive measures by users. The prominent risk by cybercrime needs technical & legal knowledge amongst users of applications, tools & technology. In addition to cybercrime, there is also misuse of privacy & personal data of individuals which is in clear violation of Article 21 of the constitution of India.

Jammu and Kashmir, information Technology (Electronic Service Delivery) Rules, 2013: Various rules have been framed in Jammu and Kashmir for enhancing digital democracy and empowerment. The Jammu and Kashmir, Information Technology (Electronic Service Delivery) Rules, 2013 are one set of such rules. These are approved by application of the powers conferred by Section 90 read with Sections 6 and 6A of the IT Act, 2000 for the purpose of efficient delivery of electronic service through electronically enabled kiosks or some other mechanism for electronic service delivery.

Information Technology & Right to Information Laws: RTI Act, 2005 made right to secrecy an exception by changing the discourse of the colonial law named as Official Secret Act, 1893. The RTI Act, 2005 casts obligation on public authorities to facilitate right to information to all and casts duty upon the authorities to maintain all records duly indexed and catalogued which facilitates open access records of public authority on different systems all over states. Section 6(1) says, the applicant shall, make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi accompanying such fee as may be prescribed. Information is to be provided in the printed or in any electronic format. Every public authority suomotu has to take steps to make available information to the public at consistent intervals through internet. The public have minimum possibility to the use of their right to information and such access should be in public domain.

Conclusion: IT Act is not the comprehensive code to deal with all cyber-crimes, therefore, need of hour is to incorporate new provisions in IT Act, 2000  as  well as new rules and regulations to combat & safeguard the electronic communications, electronic device & transactions. In each district of UToJ&K a cyber-cell should be established to handle cyber cases and cyber criminals. Cyber police should be given proper training and knowledge to investigate the emergent challenge of cybercrime & cyber criminals. Generally people don’t register complaint either due to lack of knowledge or due to fear of disclosing their identity, hence, need of the hour is that concerned authorities should regularly post the emerging cybercrimes and safety tips to safeguard & enhance their privacy. In addition to these, awareness programmes, seminars, symposiums, workshops & conferences should be organised by professionals having experience about cyber law and handling cyber criminals.

Author is a Research Scholar at Aligarh Muslim University