This article has been written by Aishwarya S, pursuing a Diploma in Cyber Law, FinTech Regulations and Technology Contracts from LawSikho. It has been edited by Prashant Baviskar (Associate, LawSikho) and Zigishu Singh (Associate, LawSikho).
As humans started to develop and found several techniques to make their lives simpler, one such technique was the invention of machines that performed the work with their involvement. What I mean by involvement here is that the machines which were invented need human intervention in order to obtain the desired result. Computers are one among such inventions which allowed us to witness a huge digital revolution during the last stage of the 20th century and the initial stage of the 21st century.
Due to the drastic development of technology, we were able to achieve many goals, but at the same time there were some disadvantages too. One among such is cyber-crime, initially, it was very serious in nature as the crime was committed from a remote area. Hence there was a need to regulate all these activities as it would be dangerous to allow these human acts to be committed without regulation. Both the cyber-crimes and the technology evolution need to be regulated and hence the Information Technology Act, 2000 came into force.
As a result of this enactment, many of the conventional laws such as the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, Bankers Book Act, RBI Act, etc were amended to provide legal recognition to Electronic records, documents, evidence with respect to the Indian Penal Code, Evidence Act. In order to facilitate online transactions, many third-party platforms like G-pay, etc got their recognition at large as it made both customer and banking sector work easy. There was a need for change in the banking Acts and Regulations to provide legal recognition to such online transactions.
The rules stipulated in the IT Act are also very essential as without rules it would be difficult to implement such statutes in the real world.
Hence the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 was enacted for the purpose of laying down the rules regarding blocking of information to the public under information of technology act as some of the confidential information cannot be disclosed.
IT (Blocking Rules), 2009 is a central government legislation that lays down the procedure and safeguarding measures for blocking the access of information by the public and it is enacted under the power conferred by Section 87(2)(z) of IT ACT,2000 R/W Section 69A of the IT ACT,2000.
Information Technology (Blocking Rules), 2009
It is a short enactment consisting of 16 Rules. Let us now understand the rules chronologically. By default, we all know the first and second be it rules or sections it would be short title and definition clauses respectively.
Rule 1 – we can find the title and its commencement details.
Rule 2 – we can find nine important terms and their definition under this statute where two of the terms ie, “Organization” and “Request” requires special attention as here public while seeking information which are the organization to which they shall submit their request and which is the mode of request is considered to be requested to be blocked and not to be disclosed.
Rule 3 – This provides rules regarding the designated officer – he shall be appointed by the central government of India and he shall be qualified when he is not below the rank of joint secretary. He shall direct to block any information requested by the public through computer resources having national interest and which are confidential in nature and which come under the purview of Section 69A(2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Rule 4 – It provides the manner in which the Nodal officer of the organization is selected as per this Rules and how he or she is to carry out the functions as stated in these Rules – one of its officers shall be selected as the Nodal Officer and same shall be intimated to the Central government of India, Information Technology department which comes under the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.
Rule 5 – This is related to the direction issued by the Designated Officer on the receipt by the nodal officer and court having jurisdiction, any competent government agency to block the entire or part of the information requested as provided under section 69A(1) of Information Technology Act,2000.
Rule 6 – This is related to transferring the request from one organization to another. This rule consists of five sub-clauses. Let us now interpret each sub-clause.
Sub Rule 1: If a person makes any complaint regarding the blocking of the information requested by the public (person), such person can submit his complaint to the concerned nodal officer. Such a complaint shall not be the receipt of refusal done by the same nodal officer which means the nodal officer before whom he or she is placing the complaint shall not be the same nodal officer who has refused his or her request for such information and has directed for blocking of information. And such a complaint made before the concerned nodal officer which is not having prior refusal receipt shall be approved by the Chief Secretary (C.S) of the respective state or union territory to the designated officer. In the absence of C.S, it may be asserted by the Adviser Administrative of that particular Union Territory.
Sub Rule 2: The complaint shall be examined by the organization, regarding whether the complaint is complying with the provisions of the sub-clause 1 of Rule 6 and whether it is complying with the reasons given under section 69A of IT Act, 2000 and then it shall be sent to the designated officer through its nodal officer as in the prescribed format.
Sub Rule 3: Any complaint from the public directly to the designated officer shall not be admitted.
Sub Rule 4: The complaint shall be in written form and it shall not be incomplete and shall consist of the respective organization as the letterhead or it can also be in electronic format along with the electronic signature of the concerned nodal officer along with the complainant(person making the complaint)signature. It shall be delivered to the designated officer within three days on receiving such hardcopy or Email.
Sub Rule 5: The designated officer shall assign a number along with the date and time of the complaint receipt and shall acknowledge the complaint to the nodal officer within twenty-four days of receiving such complaint.
Rule 7: The complaint shall be examined by the committee which includes designated officer, as chairperson along with his team consisting of representatives not below the rank of joint secretary in Ministry of Law and Justice, Home Affairs, Information and Broadcasting and the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team appointed under section 70B(1) of IT Act, 2000.
Rule 8: It deals with the examination of requests.
Sub Rule 1: On receiving the request the designated officer shall make exclusive research as to identify the person who has hosted such information either wholly or partly along with the computer resource on which it is hosted either wholly or partly. On identifying such a person he shall issue notice either in physical form or electronically as prescribed and within forty-eight hours the person to whom the notice is issued shall appear in front of the committee (formed under Rule 7) at the specific date and date as mentioned in the notice.
Sub Rule 2: If such person to whom notice has served upon,if fails to appear on the specific date and time as given in the notice, he or she shall be given specific recommendation in writing with respect to the guidelines given by the nodal officer and the information available with the committee.
Sub Rule 3: If such person to whom notice is served is identified to be a foreign entity by the designated officer, then he or she shall be served with notice along with the specific date and time mentioned for his appearance before the committee. On failure to appear, he shall be given special recommendations in writing as per the request received upon nodal officer based on the information available to the committee.
Sub Rule 4: The committee (referring to Rule 7) will analyze the request along with the printed sample information whether the information sought comes under the purview of section 69A(1) of IT Act, 2000 if it complies he shall provide specific recommendations in writing to the request received from the nodal officer
Sub Rule 5: The designated officer shall send the committee’s report in a request of blocking the information by the nodal officer to the Secretary, Department of Information and Technology, Government of India.
Sub Rule 6: The designated officer on getting the approval of the Secretary for blocking the information shall direct the respective government agency or intermediary to block such information from the public access and if not approved by the Secretary the same shall be intimated to the nodal officer.
Rule 9: It deals with the blocking information in emergency cases.
Sub Rule 1: In any emergency situation the designated officer, complying with Rule 7 and 8 without any delay, will analyze the request along with the printed sample and shall see whether the request is complying with section 69A of IT Act, 2000 if it is expeditious in nature to block such information he shall give specific recommendations in writing to the Secretary, Information Technology Department, Government of India.
Sub Rule 2: On receiving such emergency specific recommendation he shall examine it without any delay and if he is satisfied that it is expedient and justifiable for blocking the information from public access and shall record his reasons and as interim measure issue notice to such identified person who has hosted such information on the computer resources without being heard.
Sub Rule 3: The designated officer without delaying further than forty eight hours issues direction under sub-rule 2 and places the request before the committee (referred under Rule 7) to consider the request and to provide its recommendation.
Sub Rule 4: On recommendation of the committee, the secretary shall pass the final order to block the information from the public access and if not approved by the secretary in his final order the interim direction given under sub-rule 2 shall be reversed and an order for unblocking of information and give access for the public.
Rule 10: Any order by the competent court for blocking of information either partly or wholly on receiving the certified copy of the order the designated officer shall submit the same to the secretary, Department of Information Technology and take action as specified under the Court’s order.
Rule 11: On the request received by the nodal officer, the request shall be disposed within seven working days from the date of receiving such request.
Rule 12: If the intermediary does not comply with the direction issued to him as per Rule 9, then action would be taken against him by the designated officer with the assent of the secretary of the Information Technology Department and appropriate action will be taken n as per specified under section 69A(3) of the IT Act,2000.
Sub Rule 1:
Intermediary to appoint the appropriate person to receive and handle the directions for blocking the public access to the information which is in electronic format such as information which is generated, hosted on any computer resources, transmitted, received, stored as per provided under these rules.
Sub Rule 2: He (who is appointed by the intermediary) shall acknowledge receipt of the direction to the designated officer within two hours of receiving such direction through the acknowledgment letter or E-mail along with the Electronic Signature.
Rule 14: A Review committee Meeting shall meet once in two months to assess the records and to find whether all the directions given are complying with the section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and if the directions issued are not complying with section 69A then they will reverse the orders and direct for unblocking of the information which was requested for the public access.
Rule 15: The designated officer to maintain the database of the records of the cases of blocking of information by public access and the action taken by him in each case respectively. He shall maintain both in electronic format and in the register.
Rule 16: All the information relating to the request and complaint received and the actions are taken in each of the cases respectively shall be confidential. It shall be strictly abided by the concerned authority.
Section 69A of Information Technology Act, 2000
It deals with the powers to provide directions for blocking information by public access through any computer resources.
Sub Section 1: It empowers the Central Government of India and any officer appointed by it in this behalf feel necessary and if any expeditious decisions to be taken as if it falls under the following circumstances:
- In the interest of the Integrity and Sovereignty of India
- Defence of India
- Security of the State
- Friendly relationship with Foreign States
- Public orders
- To prevent incitement to the commission of any cognizable offences relating with above circumstances.
Sub Section 2: The procedure and safeguards with respect to blocking of information by public access shall be as may be prescribed.
Sub Section 3: The intermediary who fails to comply with the direction given under sub section 1 will be punished with imprisonment which may be extended upto seven years along with fine.
I would like to conclude by stating a few lines. Referring to the summary of Information Technology (Blocking) Rules and Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, I found that this legislation to be highly important as it is important to implement and regulate the blocking of information from public access as the information which is confidential and having national interest cannot be disclosed to the public. Review committee under Rule 14 is extremely important as to curtail the abuse of the power of the concerned authorities under this act. Section 69A of IT Act, 2000 empowers central government to provide its directions in the same way and thus any such information which is blocked by public access cannot be requested through RTI as all the circumstances under section 69A(1) of IT ACT, 2000 are also exempted from disclosure of information under section 8 of Right To Information Act.
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