The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In April 2001 the controller of certifying authorities announced that digital signatures would be available to internet users by June 2002. There is also some right of personal privacy in Indian law. Unlawful attacks on the honour and reputation of a person can invite an action in tort and/or criminal law. The Public Financial Institutions Act of 1993 codifies India’s tradition of maintaining confidentiality in bank transactions. In March 2000 the Central Bureau of Investigation set up the cyber crime investigation cell to investigate offences under the Information Technology Act 2000 and other high tech crimes. The CCIC has jurisdiction over all of India and is a member of the Interpol working party on information technology crime for southeast Asia and Australia.

Similar cells have been set up at the state and city level, for example in the state of Karnataka and the city of Mumbai. In June 2002, the Central government authorized the national police academy in Hyderabad to prepare a handbook on procedures to handle digital evidence in the case of computer and internet-related crimes.

The government is also considering establishing an electronic research and development centre of India to be responsible for developing new cyber forensic tools. India’s intelligence bureau is reported to have developed an email interception tool similar to the carnivore system, which it claims to use in anti-terrorist investigations. In April 2002, India and the United States of America launched a cyber security forum to collaborate on responding to cyber security threats.

Wiretapping is regulated under the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885. There have been numerous phone tap scandals in India, resulting in a 1996 decision by the Supreme Court which ruled that wiretaps are a “serious invasion of an individual’s privacy” and laid out guidelines for wiretapping by the government. The guidelines define who can tap phones and under what circumstances. Only the Union home secretary or his counterpart in the states can issue an order for a tap.

The government is also required to show that the information sought cannot be obtained through any other means. The court mandated the development of a high-level review committee to review the legality of each wiretap. Tapped phone calls are not accepted as primary evidence in India’s courts. However, as is the case with most laws in India, there continues to be a gap between the law and its enforcement.

According to prominent non-government organizations, the mail of many NGOs in Delhi and in strife-torn areas continues to be subjected to interception and censorship. In March 2002 the Indian parliament, in a rare joint session, passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act over the objections of several opposition parties and in the face of considerable public criticism. The National Human Rights Commission...criticized the measure finding that the existing laws were sufficient to combat terrorism. The law codifies the prevention of terrorism ordinance that in turn builds on the repealed Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.

It gives law enforcement sweeping powers to arrest suspected terrorists, intercept communications, and curtail free expression. Critics argue that the experience of TADA and POTO shows that the power was often misused for political ends by authorities and that POTA does little to curb those excesses. Chapter V of the act deals with the interception of electronic communication...; however, it remains to be seen how effective such mechanisms will be in practice.

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