IT industry renews efforts to reform cyber laws

Wednesday, 22 December 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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MUMBAI: Stung by the incarceration of the top official of a popular Internet auction firm, Indian IT industry representatives Wednesday vowed to press ahead with their demand to make cyber laws investor friendly.

Despite the bail for Avnish Bajaj, CEO of that is a unit of the world's biggest online auction site eBay, experts say the debate for amending the cyber laws may have just begun.

"The issue is much larger than the arrest and subsequent release of Bajaj. The future of Internet business in India is at stake," said Raghu Raman, CEO of Mahindra Special Services, an independent IT security consultancy firm.

"The question that we want answered is why he was arrested in the first place. This should be treated as a starting point for the debate. This case is a wake-up call for the business as well as for the government," Raman told IANS.

"We need to ask ourselves whether we are trying to implement 19th century laws in the 21st century world. We need to ask whether our law enforcing agencies are keeping up with the fast changes in the IT space."

Raman said India's IT Act 2000, under which Bajaj was jailed for allegedly peddling obscene material through his auction site, had become obsolete in view of the latest technological advancements and that it needed to be changed.

The Delhi High Court granted bail to Bajaj, an India-born American citizen, Tuesday who was jailed in connection with the auction of a sex video clip involving students of a Delhi school on

His arrest attracted sharp criticism from Indian industry. The US authorities were also closely monitoring the developments on this front.

"The law must have been framed at least two to three years before its actual implementation. At that time no one would have envisaged the issues like proliferation of wireless technology," said Raman.

"What we need is a governing body with representation from the IT industry, which will suggest changes in the cyber laws to make it relevant in the prevailing scenario.

"We need to get some sort of rationale in place and this particular case should be treated as a landmark to bring about much needed changes."

Mahesh Murthy, board director of The IndUS Entrepreneur (TiE) and CEO Internet investment firm Passionfund, said the industry would continue the effort to reform cyber laws.

"We need to educate our police and authorities so an act of national humiliation like this never happens again," he said.

"The world is now watching us very closely in how the court deals with the trial. I am hoping for a complete victory," he added.

Terming the arrest of Bajaj as unwarranted, Murthy said: "It is impossible to have knowledge of what tens of thousands of merchants are doing in your shopping mall but the burden is on me to prove it.

"I am assumed guilty till I can prove that I am innocent. So if there is an obscene phone call then the chairman of the phone firm has to be taken to jail under a non-bailable offence and only then can he try to present a defence."

Referring to the non-acceptance of the electronic agreement, a user has to accept before using the Internet services, in court, Murthy said the move would create major problems for web-based businesses in the country.

"The move will hence make all electronic agreements and transactions, including the government's railway ticket selling website that has become South Asia's largest e-commerce site, illegal," he said.

Source: IANS
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