India has been projecting herself as a champion of e-governance. But the truth is that e-governance in India has miserably failed. The legal framework for e-governance in India is not only inadequate but it is also useless. This is so because we have no mandatory e-governance services in India and in the absence of a compulsion government departments are simply ignoring use of e-governance. Even the cyber security of e-governance services in India is missing as per the cyber security trends and developments of India 2013 (PDF).
Even after judicial intervention Indian government has failed to take any action in this much needed direction. For instance, the e-mail policy of India has still not been implemented despite strict warnings by Delhi High Court. So bad is the situation that the Delhi High Court has accused central government of sitting over e-mail policy of India. The Delhi High Court has also directed central government to issue notification regarding electronic signature under Information Technology Act 2000. The encryption policy of India (PDF) is also missing till date though it is need of the hour.
In a welcome move, Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday became the first state in the country to pass an e-mail policy to give legal standing to correspondence between government departments via electronic mail and digital messaging. The state cabinet which met on Wednesday morning after a gap of six weeks following the imposition of model code of conduct before the Lok Sabha election endorsed the E-mail Policy 2014 to “expedite government work through use of information technology”. This is a good step and other states must also do the same.
The main objective of this policy is to give legal recognition to e-mail correspondence and dissemination of information and data between the different government departments. The state government argued that this single step would speed-up jobs at government offices which till now was heavily dependent on notifications and movement of red tapism.
Till now e-mail correspondence were not authorised by the state under any policy procedure. Hence, its validity and decisions taken using e-mail are questionable. But with the implementation of the E-mail policy, message exchanged over electronic mail will be included formally in the category of approved documentation and acceptable to all concerned.
By evening, a state government release informed that all departments, offices, affiliated institutions and autonomous bodies which draw funds from the state government’s consolidated fund, will be provided e-mail related facilities free of cost. It will also be compulsory for employees of various state government departments, their affiliated organizations, corporations, boards who use this facility to strictly follow the guidelines of the E-mail Policy.
However, this would also raise many techno legal compliance requirements and cyber law due diligence on the part of government departments and other stakeholders. Cyber security breaches have significantly increased in India and government departments would be required to comply with cyber security breach notification requirements as well.