Thursday, November 11, 2010

PMO Must Take E-Governance Of India Seriously

E-governance in India is passing through a bad phase as the national e-governance plan (NEGP) has failed to make any substantial impact. As a natural result, the e-infrastructure in India has also failed to develop to its full potential. The fact is that despite all media glare, e-governance is India is badly ailing.

Indian e-governance initiatives are confused with excessive technology procurement as opposed to management of governmental functions. Computerisation of traditional governmental and public functions is not e-governance. We have to empower the citizens with the power of information and communication technology (ICT).

The citizens of India cannot be empowered till we make necessary ICT policy of India and dedicatedly pursue the same. The department of information technology (DIT) India has failed to do the needful in this regard. None of the mission mode projects mentioned in the NEGP have been successfully completed.

All the so called success stories of e-governance in India are on papers along with no real and effective benefits to the common man living at the grassroots level. Of course, successful e-governance projects like MCA21 are also there. Besides, there are some very selective projects as well that have benefited end users due to use of e-governance.

However, by and large e-governance has failed in India. The government of India is not willing to formulate suitable e-governance policies at the national level. Further, due to growing corruption and lack of transparency and accountability, e-governance funds are never utilised in real life.

Till the prime minister’s office (PMO) keeps its eyes closed towards the corruption and lack of accountability and transparency that is failing the e-governance initiatives of India, nothing is going to change. Is PMO listening or seeing or is it waiting for another financial scam?

Privacy Law in India: Need Of The Hour

Ministry Of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions (MPPGP) is managing many crucial socio-legal aspects in India. For instance, it is managing crucial issues like public grievances, personnel recruitment and training, transparency in governance, etc. In all these spheres it is playing a great and successful role.

The Ministry is also managing many crucial and far reaching legislations or proposed future legislations. For instance, the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) is managed by the Ministry. Further, the Ministry has also proposed a law for the protection of whistleblowers in India. It is named as the Public lnterest Disclosure and Protection to Persons Making the Disclosure Bill. 2010. The Ministry has also set the ball rolling by bringing forward a “concept paper” on privacy laws and data protection issues in India.

However, the Ministry is not paying enough attention to one of the most important aspects of human life. It is not interested in bringing forward laws that can protect the dignity and safety of Indian citizens. For instance, it has not taken enough initiatives for enacting privacy laws in India and data protection laws in India. Privacy and data protection are very essential to maintain the dignity of any individual.

Similarly, the Ministry is not appreciating that corruption is eating Indian economy and there is an emergent need to protect few brave and honest disclosures by whistleblowers. By keeping in abeyance the whistleblower law for long, it is putting at risk such honest people.

It would be better if the MPPGP plays a pro active role in the directions of privacy protection and whistleblower protection as well. The overall performance of the Ministry is undermined by these two issues and issues similar to them.

Has E-Court Committee Of India Been Dissolved?

Use of information and communication technology (ICT) for judicial functioning in India has long become overdue. This does not mean that Indian courts have not witnessed any computerisation at all. They have definitely improved a lot on this front but they are far away from being called e-courts. As per the status report on the e-court mission mode project of India released in October 2010, we are still waiting for the establishment of first e-court of India.

An e-court committee was set up in December 2004 to assist the chief justice of India (CJI) in formulating a national policy on computerisation of Indian judiciary and advice on technological, communication and management-related changes. The tenure of the committee was initially set for one year and it was renewed from time to time till February 2010. There is no news of renewal of its tenure since February 2010 and it is safe to conclude that the Supreme Court e-court committee of India has been dissolved.

Meanwhile the national litigation policy of India (NLPI) was released in India. According to the NLPI, there will be an Empowered Committees to monitor the implementation of this Policy and accountability. Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved an amount of 935 crore budget for implementing the e-courts project in the India.

However, even after almost two months not even the Empowered Committee has been constituted by the Department of Justice. The empowered committee will be responsible for providing strategic direction and guidance to the e-court project. In the absence of the empowered committee, the e-court project cannot start.

There is no shortage of financial resources and all it requires is a will to implement the e-court project of India. With a lack of techno legal expertise in this regard as well lack of ICT impetus in the NLPI, India may not see the first e-court for few more years. Law Minister Veerappa Moily must actively take part in this much needed judicial reform initiative that is going to die otherwise.