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December 21, 2004

Losing in Indian IT legal battles

In India every scandal is different , remember we have layers - layers of social and political complexity.
Add to that this newly emerging layer of virtual morality and digital legal issues. 

Avnish Bajaj got dragged into this issue, there is no doubt about this. Those well connected parents instead of controlling their kids harmones went after "sabko andar kara doonga".  Poor guy didnt anticipate how crazy Delhi's socio-political landscape gets. It stinks.

Lets look at the silver lining. Now Indian businessmen will be IT-law savvy. We have a precedent now. This will be quoted in cases and hopefully law will be revised as well. Under normal circumstances legal issues get overlooked. Try digging into popular sites terms and conditions or privacy notices. This unfortunate case will change all that. We will be better off in the long run.

This is where law needs some revision. From IT Act 2000 :

Section 67: Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form.

Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on the first conviction to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

Section 79: Network service providers not to be liable in certain cases. For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that no person providing any service as a network service provider shall be liable under this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder for any third party information or data made available by him if he proves that the offence or contravention was committed without his knowledge or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence or contravention.

Explanation. For the purposes of this section

a. 'network service provider' means an intermediary;

b. 'third party information' means any information dealt with by a network service provider in his capacity as an intermediary.

Avnish will be a hero in the long run since he volunteered for this. He is smart enough to enjoy this in the long run. I mean Harvard grad/IIT alumni doing time in country's elite jail is story which is worth talking about.  He should champion some key digital legal reforms in the country and dont let this become a bogey issue for that crazy song I keep hearing every now and then - "What will foreign investors think about this?".

Here is what they need to do now -

- Free Avnish and Avnish should become a new champion for legal reforms concerning online business and online activism in general.

- Setup a forward looking legal watchdog which not only in retrospect but also proactively evaluates different technologies for its social, economic, and politicial impact. It should evaluate technology the way Engadget reviews gizmos for fun. Issues involved here are very sensitive and far reaching. Once every kid in India and other developing country starts wielding cameraphone then all hell will break loose.

- Introduce digital manners early in the school.  Its not right to upload somebody's picture on the Internet. Tell them early on that they can go to juvenile correction centers for those kinds of things. Atleast somebody needs to tell them that IT'S WRONG. NO ITS NOT FUN.

- Parents ! Parents wake up. Next time you go looking for nice iMac or new Moto. Think for a second how it can be used for nefarious activities as well. Remember the lesson - "Failure of imagination".

I hope we all learn from this.

December 21, 2004 in Emerging Technologies | Permalink


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