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IT Act harsh on network service provider, says expert

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Seeks amendments to the legislation to address key concerns

Cyber woes
There are no adequate provisions to deal with cyber stalking and cyber theft.
The problem of jurisdiction is also crucial as Net is beyond boundaries.

Visakhapatnam , Oct. 15

The Information Technology Act, 2000, is too harsh on the network service provider, as it is the responsibility of the latter to prove his (or her) innocence in the event of a cyber crime and therefore the provision needs to be reviewed and amended, Mr Pavan Duggal, Supreme Court advocate and noted expert in the field, has opined.

He expressed the opinion while delivering a lecture on cyber crimes and related laws on Saturday at the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant.

He said the IT Act defined a network service provider as an intermediary and made him liable for all third party data provided by the network. "The onus, in the event of any breach of security or any other lapse, is on the network service provider to prove his (or her) innocence. He, or she, can hope to do it only by proving that he, or she, did not have knowledge of the breach and that it had occurred in spite of all due diligence. These are very harsh provisions and very difficult to comply with," he said, citing the case of Baazi.dotcom.

He said the IT Act was a welcome step and it had many positive features, but several crucial areas were excluded, or ignored, in the Act.

Crucial omissions

"As electronic commerce increases, and as Internet penetration grows in the country, we are confronted with these problems. There are no adequate provisions to deal with crimes such as cyber stalking and cyber theft. The problem of jurisdiction is also crucial. Internet is above, beyond, national boundaries and therefore the cyber crimes take place across the countries. But they have to be dealt with by national laws. We are confronted with the paradox," he said.

Pointing out another area of concern, Mr Duggal said that the IT Act, 2000, does not authorise any police officer below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police to investigate cyber crimes, "presuming of course that the DSPs in the country have the technical knowledge to deal with the crimes."

Draconian powers

Besides, the Act vested the DSP with "draconian and sweeping powers" in dealing with such crimes. There was always the possibility of abuse of powers and "the industry and corporates are rightly concerned over it."

The avowed object of the IT Act was to promote electronic commerce and yet immovable property was excluded from the ambit of such commerce, he pointed out. Citing several cases, Mr Duggal pleaded for amendments to the IT Act to address these concerns.

Mr D. Kameswara Rao, Chairman of the Visakhapatnam chapter of the Computer Society of India, said that those resorting to cyber crime were youngsters, which was a disturbing trend.

Mr T. Lakshminarayana, General Manger, IT, Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, and Mr P.K Mishra, Director, Operations, also spoke.

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