Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Electronic Services Delivery And Public Records Act 1993

The Electronic Services Delivery Bill 2011(ESDB 2011) is a very recent Bill proposed by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT). The Bill has been revised twice and it may still not be the final Bill. However, sooner or later ESDB 2011 would be made an “Enforceable Law” and various “Stakeholders” would be required to comply with the same.

One such Stakeholder is the National Archives of India (NAI), a Department attached to the Ministry of Culture. Once the ESDB 2011 comes into force, NAI and similar Departments/Institutions would be required to adjust their functioning as per the mandates of the Bill. This is not an easy task and it would require great foresight and planning to shift to an Electronic Frontier and an early planning and execution is strongly recommended by Perry4Law and Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB).

Many National Archives and Public Records related Services would be required to be provided in an “Online Environment” and through “Electronic Means” in future. This is more so due to the applicability of Public Records Act, 1993 (PRA), Information Technology Act, 2000, Digital Preservation Requirements and Electronic Services Delivery by NAI.

For instance, Section 4 of the PRA 1993 prohibits taking out of India any public record without the prior approval of Central Government. Section 9 punishes the violations under section 4 with imprisonment upto 5 years or with fine upto Rs. ten thousand rupees or with both. When Public records would be converted into “Electronic Form”, they can be easily transferred from one nation to another. NAI needs to take care of this issue through Legal and Technical means, i.e., in a Techno Legal Manner.

Further, NAI may be required to make available Public records U/S 11(2) or any record creating agency may be required to provide access to the same U/S 12(2) of the PRA 1993. These services can be provided in “Electronic Form” for larger efficiency and meeting the requirements of any “Mandatory” Electronic Services Delivery.

NAI would also be required to ensure Digitilisation and Digital Preservation due to the requirements of this Bill. Till now, Section 9 of the IT Act, 2000 was preventing Citizens of India from demanding Electronic Services as a matter of Right. Now things would be changed and Electronic Services Delivery would be demanded by Indian citizens.

We recommend that NAI and other Government Departments must pay sufficient attention towards Digital Preservation and maintenance of Electronic Records in their respective Departments.

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