Meaning and Scope of information Technology Act

The Information Technology Act, 2000 or ITA, 2000 or IT Act, was notified on October 17, 2000. It is the law that deals with cybercrime and electronic commerce in India. In this article, we will look at the objectives and features of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Information Technology Act, 2000

In 1996, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) adopted the model law on electronic commerce (e-commerce) to bring uniformity in the law in different countries.

Further, the General Assembly of the United Nations recommended that all countries must consider this model law before making changes to their own laws. India became the 12th country to enable cyber law after it passed the Information Technology Act, 2000.

While the first draft was created by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India as the ECommerce Act, 1998, it was redrafted as the ‘Information Technology Bill, 1999’, and passed in May 2000.

Objectives of the Act

The Information Technology Act, 2000 provides legal recognition to the transaction done via an electronic exchange of data and other electronic means of communication or electronic commerce transactions.

This also involves the use of alternatives to a paper-based method of communication and information storage to facilitate the electronic filing of documents with the Government agencies.

Further, this act amended the Indian Penal Code 1860, the Indian Evidence Act 1872, the Bankers’ Books Evidence Act 1891, and the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934. The objectives of the Act are as follows:

  • Grant legal recognition to all transactions done via an electronic exchange of data or other electronic means of communication or e-commerce, in place of the earlier paper-based method of communication.
  • Give legal recognition to digital signatures for the authentication of any information or matters requiring legal authentication
  • Facilitate the electronic filing of documents with Government agencies and also departments
  • Facilitate the electronic storage of data
  • Give legal sanction and also facilitate the electronic transfer of funds between banks and financial institutions
  • Grant legal recognition to bankers under the Evidence Act, 1891 and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934, for keeping the books of accounts in electronic form.

Features of the Information Technology Act, 2000

  1. All electronic contracts made through secure electronic channels are legally valid.
  2. Legal recognition for digital signatures.
  3. Security measures for electronic records and also digital signatures are in place
  4. A procedure for the appointment of adjudicating officers for holding inquiries under the Act is finalized
  5. Provision for establishing a Cyber Regulatory Appellant Tribunal under the Act. Further, this tribunal will handle all appeals made against the order of the Controller or Adjudicating Officer.
  6. An appeal against the order of the Cyber Appellant Tribunal is possible only in the High Court
  7. Digital Signatures will use an asymmetric cryptosystem and also a hash function
  8. Provision for the appointment of the Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA) to license and regulate the working of Certifying Authorities. The Controller to act as a repository of all digital signatures.
  9. The Act applies to offenses or contraventions committed outside India
  10. Senior police officers and other officers can enter any public place and search and arrest without warrant
  11. Provisions for the constitution of a Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee to advise the Central Government and Controller.

Applicability and Non-Applicability of the Act

Applicability

According to Section 1 (2), the Act extends to the entire country, which also includes Jammu and Kashmir. In order to include Jammu and Kashmir, the Act uses Article 253 of the constitution. Further, it does not take citizenship into account and provides extra-territorial jurisdiction.

Section 1 (2) along with Section 75, specifies that the Act is applicable to any offense or contravention committed outside India as well. If the conduct of person constituting the offense involves a computer or a computerized system or network located in India, then irrespective of his/her nationality, the person is punishable under the Act.

Lack of international cooperation is the only limitation of this provision.

Non-Applicability

According to Section 1 (4) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Act is not applicable to the following documents:

  1. Execution of Negotiable Instrument under Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881, except cheques.
  2. Execution of a Power of Attorney under the Powers of Attorney Act, 1882.
  3. Creation of Trust under Indian Trust Act, 1882.
  4. Execution of a Will under the Indian Succession Act, 1925 including any other testamentary disposition
    by whatever name called.
  5. Entering into a contract for the sale of conveyance of immovable property or any interest in such property.
  6. Any such class of documents or transactions as may be notified by the Central Government in the Gazette.

The Information Technology Amendment Act, 2008 (IT Act 2008) is a substantial addition to India’s Information Technology Act (ITA-2000). The IT Amendment Act was passed by the Indian Parliament in October 2008 and came into force a year later. The Act is administered by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In).

The original Act was developed to promote the IT industry, regulate e-commerce, facilitate e-governance and prevent cybercrime. 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.

Changes in the Amendment include: redefining terms such as “communication device” to reflect current use; validating electronic signatures and contracts; making the owner of a given IP address responsible for content accessed or distributed through it; and making corporations responsible for implementing effective data security practices and liable for breaches.

The Amendment has been criticized for decreasing the penalties for some cybercrimes and for lacking sufficient safeguards to protect the civil rights of individuals. Section 69, for example, authorizes the Indian government to intercept, monitor, decrypt and block data at its discretion. According to Pavan Duggal, a cyber-law consultant and advocate at the Supreme Court of India, “The Act has provided Indian government with the power of surveillance, monitoring and blocking data traffic. The new powers under the amendment act tend to give Indian government a texture and color of being a surveillance state.”

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