ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Regulating the Net

WEEKLYECONOMIC AND POLITICAL Regulating the Net Over the last decade and a half several countries have been struggling to achieve a fine balance between too much and too little control and monitoring of the internet and all that it stands for. In the early years when the new medium grew to encompass the wide range of commercial activity, the dominant opinion was to give room for its development without the encumbrance of legislation. Additionally, technology available then would have made it difficult to actually implement any measures to monitor the medium. Over the decade several countries have introduced laws to regulate information technology, but nowhere has it had an easy passage. Further, quite often attempts to crack down on some aspect of information technology, for instance pornography on the web, have had to be revoked. It is hardly surprising then, that the newly created information technology ministry

Over the last decade and a half several countries have been struggling to achieve a fine balance between too much and too little control and monitoring of the internet and all that it stands for. In the early years when the new medium grew to encompass the wide range of commercial activity, the dominant opinion was to give room for its development without the encumbrance of legislation. Additionally, technology available then would have made it difficult to actually implement any measures to monitor the medium. Over the decade several countries have introduced laws to regulate information technology, but nowhere has it had an easy passage. Further, quite often attempts to crack down on some aspect of information technology, for instance pornography on the web, have had to be revoked. It is hardly surprising then, that the newly created information technology ministry’s first attempt at regulation , the Information Technology Bill, should have prompted discussion and debate in government and in industry circles. But equally disappointing is the fact that it has been allowed to pass keeping in place some questionable sections which can so easily become draconian in interpretation.

The most important focus of the legislation is understandably that trade, commercial and business transactions and communications on the internet are facilitated and are afforded security and protection. If E-commerce is to realise its potential, there needed to be comprehensive legislation, which confers a legal status on business and trade transactions. The bill proposes relevant amendments to existing commercial laws governing contracting parties providing legal protection against fraud. IT recognises for the first time electronic records and digital signatures. For this an elaborate regulatory structure has been proposed. The Cyber Regulations Apellate Tribunal and the Controller of Certifying Authorities will be the two main regulatory bodies and are to come into operation by August 15 this year. However, the effectiveness of such legislation depends on how speedily it can swing into action. This means that the judicial processes which are involved in the implementation of legislation need to be made more efficient and streamlined. Unless the course of justice acquires the speed of the internet, legislation regulating and securing E-commerce will only remain on paper. And that is going to be a difficult task.

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