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Draft Digital India Act framework in final stages

A significant amount of work has been done on proposed Digital India Act, and the draft legislative framework to support ‘India’s techade’ is expected by early 2023, Minister of State for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar has said.

The comments assume significance as India is moving swiftly towards a strong framework to catalyse its digital ambitions and govern online ecosystem, with openness, user safety and trust as the guiding principles.

At the same time, the government has asserted that extensive consultation will go into framing key legislations which are going to be essential building blocks for ‘new India’ and its digital architecture.

Asked about the status of Digital India Act, which will replace the IT Act, Mr. Chandrasekhar said: “A significant amount of work has been done on it, and we expect that in early 2023, under PM’s leadership, a legislative framework for India’s techade will be placed in front of the country.”

The Minister asserted that the government intends to have detailed consultation on key legislations.

“…all of these legislations for ‘new India’, have to be modern, extensively consulted with consumers, industry, startups, lawyers, judges, citizens… all of them have to find that their voice has been incorporated into all of these legislations, and that is precisely what we will do,” Mr. Chandrasekhar told PTI in an interview.

Mr. Chandrasekhar made it clear: “We are not operating on artificial timelines.”

The upcoming legislation, Digital India Act, will replace the IT Act 2000, which is more than two decades old, Mr. Chandrasekhar said but did not comment on specific provisions.

Mr. Chandrasekhar further said laws, rules and jurisprudence around internet will continue to evolve. It is pertinent to mention that the government recently tweaked IT rules under which it will set up appellate panels to resolve grievances that users may have against decisions of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook on hosting contentious content.

Notably, the new amendments to IT rules now impose a legal obligation on social media companies to take all out efforts to prevent barred content and misinformation, and platforms such as Twitter and Facebook operating in India will have to abide by local laws and constitutional rights of Indian users.

The hardening of stance against the big tech companies comes at a time when discontent has been brewing over alleged arbitrary acts of social media platforms on flagged content.

Given that 800 million Indians are online, the Centre had said it will bring a modern framework of laws and rules that will act as catalysts for innovation and protect rights of `Digital Nagriks’.

While the government withdrew the draft Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill in August, its replacement – a fresh legislation offering a comprehensive framework of global standard laws including digital privacy laws for contemporary and future challenges – is currently in the works. PTI

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