The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Leash on infotech sleaze, steal

New Delhi, Aug. 29: The Kkaran Bahrees lurking in India’s call centres and the sleazeballs who send out pornographic MMS over their mobile phones had better watch out.

The government is framing legislation that will throw them into prison and slap monetary penalties for a range of new-age crimes in a tech-savvy world.

People like Bahree, who sell personal information and financial details they steal from call centre databases, could end up paying a fine of up to Rs 1 crore.

Deterrent punishment is also being proposed for people who zap pornographic images over bluetooth-enabled phones or over the Net without a person’s consent.

An expert committee set up to review the Information Technology Act, 2000, and remove deficiencies submitted its report today, proposing stringent penalty for electronic voyeurism.

The committee was formed after scandals over breach of data protection at call centres and circulation of purported risque images of starlets like Mallika Sherawat and the MMS that caught the sexcapade of two students of a prestigious Delhi school.

For a person who intentionally captures or broadcasts an “image of a private area of an individual without his consent”, it recommends fine, imprisonment or both (see chart).

The draft law, for the first time anywhere in the world, gives a graphic definition of what constitutes an offence.

“A private area of the individual” has been defined as the naked or undergarment-clad genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast.

The committee proposes even more stringent punishment for broadcasting child pornography.

Publishing or transmission through electronic form any material that relates to child pornography will be punished with imprisonment of not less than three years and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh.

In the event of a second or subsequent conviction, the penalty will be prison for seven years and a fine of Rs 10 lakh.

The committee also suggested formulation of laws for the validity of electronic transactions.

The draft proposals have been placed in the public domain for feedback and will come into force after a long-drawn process of ratification through various layers of the government and Parliament.

Cyber law experts feel the proposals do not reflect the sprit of the action Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought when he called for stringent laws to ensure protection of personal data and privacy.

Pawan Duggal, a cyber law expert, said: “The proposals are just a knee-jerk reaction to the recent incidents. Unfortunately, they do not reflect the vision of the Prime Minister for stringent data protection laws. There has been a considerable watering down of various clauses of the existing act.”

He felt data-related offences had not been comprehensively covered.

The draft recommends imprisonment up to three years, or a fine of Rs 2 lakh, or both for tampering with computer source documents and hacking.

Assisting a person to gain access to a computer resource or planting a virus will attract a prison term up to two years, or a fine that may go up to Rs 5 lakh, or both.

The committee has also suggested setting up a one-member cyber regulations appellate tribunal for quick resolution of cases.

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