Cyber law is important because it touches almost all aspects of transactions and activities on and involving the internet, World Wide Web and cyberspace. Every action and reaction in cyberspace has some legal and cyber legal perspectives. Cyber law encompasses laws relating to –
- Cyber crimes
- Electronic and digital signatures
- Intellectual property
- Data protection and privacy
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. This legislation has touched varied aspects pertaining to electronic authentication, digital (electronic) signatures, cyber crimes and liability of network service providers. The Preamble to the Act states that it aims at providing legal recognition for transactions carried out by means of electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication, commonly referred to as “electronic commerce”, which involve the use of alternatives to paper-based methods of communication and storage of information and aims at facilitating electronic filing of documents with the Government agencies. This Act was amended by Information Technology Amendment Bill, 2008 which was passed in Lok Sabha on 22nd December, 2008 and in Rajya Sabha on 23rd December, 2008. It received the assent of the President on 5th February 2009 and was notified with effect from 27/10/2009.
The IT Act of 2000 was developed to promote the IT industry, regulate e-commerce, facilitate e-governance and prevent cyber crime. The Act also sought to foster security practices within India that would serve the country in a global context. The Amendment was created to address issues that the original bill failed to cover and to accommodate further development of IT and related security concerns since the original law was passed. The IT Act, 2000 consists of 90 sections spread over 13 chapters [Sections 91, 92, 93 and 94 of the principal Act were omitted by the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 and has 2 schedules.[ Schedules III and IV were omitted by the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008].
Salient features of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008
- The term ‘digital signature’ has been replaced with ‘electronic signature’ to make the Act more technology neutral.
- A new section has been inserted to define ‘communication device’ to mean cell phones, personal digital assistance or combination of both or any other device used to communicate, send or transmit any text video, audio or image.
- A new section has been added to define cyber cafe as any facility from where the access to the internet is offered by any person in the ordinary course of business to the members of the public.
- A new definition has been inserted for intermediary.
- A new section 10A has been inserted to the effect that contracts concluded electronically shall not be deemed to be unenforceable solely on the ground that electronic form or means was used.
- The damages of Rs. One Crore prescribed under section 43 of the earlier Act of 2000 for damage to computer, computer system etc. has been deleted and the relevant parts of the section have been substituted by the words, ‘he shall be liable to pay damages by way of compensation to the person so affected’.
- A new section 43A has been inserted to protect sensitive personal data or information possessed, dealt or handled by a body corporate in a computer resource which such body corporate owns, controls or operates. If such body corporate is negligent in implementing and maintaining reasonable security practices and procedures and thereby causes wrongful loss or wrongful gain to any person, it shall be liable to pay damages by way of compensation to the person so affected.
- Sections 66A to 66F has been added to Section 66 prescribing punishment for offences such as obscene electronic message transmissions, identity theft, cheating by impersonation using computer resource, violation of privacy and cyber terrorism.
- Section 67 of the IT Act, 2000 has been amended to reduce the term of imprisonment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form to three years from five years and increase the fine thereof from Rs.100,000 to Rs. 500,000. Sections 67A to 67C have also been inserted. While Sections 67A and B deals with penal provisions in respect of offences of publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act and child pornography in electronic form, Section 67C deals with the obligation of an intermediary to preserve and retain such information as may be specified for such duration and in such manner and format as the central government may prescribe.
- In view of the increasing threat of terrorism in the country, the new amendments include an amended section 69 giving power to the state to issue directions for interception or monitoring of decryption of any information through any computer resource. Further, sections 69A and B, two new sections, grant power to the state to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource and to authorize to monitor and collect traffic data or information through any computer resource for cyber security.
- Section 79 of the Act which exempted intermediaries has been modified to the effect that an intermediary shall not be liable for any third party information data or communication link made available or hosted by him if; (a) The function of the intermediary is limited to providing access to a communication system over which information made available by third parties is transmitted or temporarily stored or hosted; (b) The intermediary does not initiate the transmission or select the receiver of the transmission and select or modify the information contained in the transmission; (c) The intermediary observes due diligence while discharging his duties. However, section 79 will not apply to an intermediary if the intermediary has conspired or abetted or aided or induced whether by threats or promise or otherwise in the commission of the unlawful act or upon receiving actual knowledge or on being notified that any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by it is being used to commit an unlawful act, the intermediary fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner.
- A proviso has been added to Section 81 which states that the provisions of the Act shall have overriding effect. The proviso states that nothing contained in the Act shall restrict any person from exercising any right conferred under the Copyright Act, 1957.