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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
India approves IT bill
Billboard
The IT sector has boomed in India
The lower house of India's parliament has passed new legislation aimed at regulating the country's growing IT sector.

The long awaited Information Technology Bill proposes to set up special police task force to deal with cyber crimes.

On Monday the government dropped a controversial provision that would have required owners of internet cafes to keep track of customers and the websites they visit.

But civil libertarians say the bill still gives too much power to the police in the areas of computer crime and hacking.

Gearing up for change

India's IT sector has grown hugely in the past few years, and the legal system has lagged far behind.

Digital signatures are still not recognised here, nor are e-mails considered legal documents.



Concern over attempts to regulate content
The bill seeks to change that as IT and e-commerce is set to soar to even greater heights in the coming years.

But there are complaints that some measures are potentially damaging to civil rights and personal privacy.

Opponents of the bill will welcome the decision to remove or tone down requirements on internet cafe owners to keep close tabs on their customers' favourite websites.

Policing the web

But there are still new powers for police to enter premises and arrest suspected hackers or people who commit on-line fraud.

And there are also concerns about attempts to register and regulate content on Indian websites, with jail sentences and heavy fines for obscene or, as the act puts it, lascivious material, even in e-mails.

These are relatively small parts of the government's proposals but they are the main reason that critics in politics and the legal arena are demanding more time to consider the implications of the legislation.

However, time is crucial, say the bill's supporters - and even its opponents admit that the legal provisions are long overdue if India is to realise its dream of becoming a high-technology superpower.

The bill will now go to the upper house or the Rajya Sabha.

And once cleared it will be sent for the President's assent.

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See also:

15 Apr 00 | South Asia
India at risk of tech worker shortage
17 Mar 00 | South Asia
Cyber city gears up
13 Mar 00 | South Asia
Murdoch eyes 'cyber' Bangalore
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