“In the present “information and cyber age”, the importance of data cannot be underestimated by any government of the world. Having strong spirituality in belief, in my country, India, the majority masses believe in confidentiality of their personal information. At present, Indian Law is at a crossroads with regard to the development of data protection. Thus, in India to some extent, law related to data protection is illusory, never-the-less it can at best be regarded as a promise of future improvements.
The Law of the Land has endorsed “right to privacy” as one of the most fundamental right of all persons whether they are citizen or not of India. Privacy was held to be important aspect of fundamental right vide Article 14, Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 19 (1) (d), and Article 21. In fact, the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, the right to Information Act, 2005, enacted by the Indian Parliament, is the main legislations in this field.
The Information Technology Act, 2000
The main principles on data protection and privacy enumerated under the Information Technology Act, 2000 are:
(i) defining ‘data’, ‘computer database’, ‘information’, ‘electronic form’, ‘originator’, ‘addressee’, etc;
(ii) Creating civil liability if any person accesses or secures access to computer, computer system or computer network;
(iii) Creating criminal liability if any person accesses or secures access to computer, computer system or computer network;
(iv) Declaring any computer, computer system or computer network as a protected system;
(v) Imposing penalty for breach of confidentiality and privacy;
(vi) Setting up of hierarchy of regulatory authorities, namely adjudicating officers, the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal, etc.
Right to Information Act 2005
After right to file “Public Interest litigation”, “Right to Information act’ is another milestone in contemporary legal history.
RTI Act laid down a procedure to guarantee right. Under this law, all Government Bodies or Government funded agencies have to designate a Public Information Officer (PIO). The PIO’s responsibility is to ensure that information requested is disclosed to the petitioner within 30 days or within 48 hours in case of information concerning the life or liberty of a person.
Use of Data Protection Law
I have used Right to Information Act 2005 to access data from several leading government organizations.
The practical way to get access of data under Right to Information Act 2005 is to send enquiry to the designated PIOs of the concern organization who is duty bound to provide the details. If the information pertains to other organization, then instead of refusing directly, he has to forward the enquiry to the concern organization with the information to the concern person. The most important aspect is to ensure that respond must be send to the concern person within the stipulated time period.
To get access of data, I generally prepare information sought to be taken in the form of list of questionnaire. The questionnaire is prepared in such a way which involve direct questions, but in tricky manner. The required information is send to the concern designated PIO by registered post/speed post.
As far as my experience is concern, I observed in most of the cases the concern authority generally respond on information sought, never-the-less the information provided by them are either not in complete sense or simply mention that information sought does not pertains to their department.
Never-the-less, despite of some lacunas, it is beyond reasonable doubt that Right to Information Act 2005 is certainly one of the most important legislation which give right to general masses to get access data in India.
India is still at a very early stage of developing personal data protection. At present India does not provide significant protection to personal data in relation to all or most of the common privacy principles, in any sector, to meet any international standards. We should always remember the lines of Robert frost:
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”” – Ashutosh Kumar – Delhi, India