Natgrid Project Of India Must Comply With Civil Liberties To Be Constitutional

The importance of Human Rights in Cyberspace was recently reiterated when the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of India asked for further “Safeguards” before the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) can be launched in India. The Home Ministry has to now ensure “Adequate and Strong Safeguards” before Natgrid can be launched in India.
Human Rights Protection in Cyberspace is a tricky issue. On the one hand we have to respect the civil liberties like right to privacy, right to speech and expression, right against Internet censorship, etc whereas on the other hand we have to comply with the State’s right to regulate its citizens and territories. Here comes the real problem as Internet or cyberspace is boundary less.

The problem is not unique to India alone but is a universal problem. Whether it is the “anonymity controversy” regarding Google or recent controversy regarding “censorship” by China or the blocking of the website of in India or any other similar incidence, governments all over the world are unable to cope up with the present information and communication technology (ICT) systems. As a result they are superimposing the traditional concepts to cyberspace resulting in absurd results, says Praveen Dalal, leading techno-legal expert of India.

There is an emergent need to formulate good techno-legal regulation regarding human right protection in cyberspace. We cannot blindly apply the traditional concepts to cyberspace and we need a separate and dedicate branch of techno-legal laws and regulation in this regard. In the Indian context one such initiative has already been undertaken by Perry4Law.

The initiative intends to provide a techno-legal framework to the stakeholders and governments. In the Indian context, it would cover those areas that have a tendency to violate human rights in real life as well as cyberspace. Some of the areas include Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) Project (CCTNS Project), National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) of India, E-Surveillance under the Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act 2000) and other laws, etc.

The “suggestions” of Praveen Dalal regarding privacy protection and prevention of potential misuse of information for political ends gathered through NATGRID have already been accepted by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of India. In the end, the CCS withheld its nod and asked the Home Ministry to come back after further consultation with all stakeholders.

Let us hope that the proposed initiative on protection of civil liberties in cyberspace would prove useful to all concerned.