Sources said considering the tremendous growth of IT platforms, including social media platforms and the increasing contraventions being reported, the residuary penalty is not considered adequate and needs to be revised.
The ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) has proposed a stiff penalty of Rs 5 crore on IT platforms, including social media sites like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, for failing to comply with rules and regulations under the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000. The ministry has already moved a note to the Union Cabinet for amending Section 45 of the Act.
Section 45 of the IT Act provides for residuary penalty. It mandates that whoever contravenes any rules or regulations made under this Act, for the contravention of which no penalty has been separately provided, shall be liable to pay a compensation not exceeding Rs 25,000 to the person affected by such contravention or a penalty not exceeding the same amount.
Sources said considering the tremendous growth of IT platforms, including social media platforms and the increasing contraventions being reported, the residuary penalty is not considered adequate and needs to be revised. Globally too the recent cases of data breach by various intermediaries like Facebook and Equifax have resulted in a large number of users being affected. Stiff penalties have been imposed on such intermediaries by data protection authorities abroad, one of the sources said.
“Accordingly, MeitY proposed to amend Section 45 to provide for compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the person impacted by the breach and also a penalty of Rs 5 crore on the platform. A recommendation of bringing down the level of investigating officer from inspector, at present, to sub-inspector for investigating cyber crimes is also being proposed. This was suggested by the T K Vishwanathan committee,” he added. After the Supreme Court, in March 2015, held Section 66A ultra vires, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) formed a committee under former law secretary Vishwanathan to provide recommendations on establishing a strong regulatory and legal framework for tackling cyber crimes. Another source said that MeitY has moved a note to cabinet on the same, but its will now be cleared after the government formation in May this year, post the Lok Sabha elections.
Confirming the development, a senior government official said that cyber space is now a complex environment of people, software, hardware and services on the internet. Now with this space being borderless and coupled with communication being instant and anonymous, the potential for circulating malicious or fake content is huge. Hence there is a need for having stricter legal provision for authorities to swiftly tackle such cases.
Another issue is that compliance of blocking orders is a tricky affair. Most of the URLs requested for blocking are social media URLs, which are ‘http’ in nature and are heavily encrypted. They cannot be blocked in the same way as a normal ‘http’ site can be. The encrypted site requires specific decryption keys or an algorithm for it to be decrypted and then it can be blocked. Internet service providers have technical limitations in blocking such sites. The removal of such content posted on social media sites can be done by the site, the official said.
“These amendments along with amendment to the intermediary guidelines and the proposed data protection act will aid the government and the law enforcement agencies in tackling malicious content and fake news. Stringent penalties will also help in better compliance,” he explained.