Corporate Law in India and E-Governance
A very crucial question that has been recently raised by a reporter goes like this “Is National E-Governance Services Delivery Gateway Part of E-Governance?”. It is a fantastic piece of work that has analysed the “e-governance in India” from the widest possible angle. However, the best part about this work is that it is touching the legal enablement of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Systems in India, a topic that I am going to discuss here although in the context of corporate law in India.
The Techno-Legal Regulations have finally got the attention of a segment of Government of India, i.e. Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA). However, the media reports and the Ministry sources were totally clueless about the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000) of India that is also the sole cyber law of India. The ignorance can be found of at least two facts, i.e. knowledge about IT Act, 2000 and its harmonisation with two or more laws (in this case The Indian Companies Act, 1956, The Competition Act, 2002, etc). For instance, some sources have claimed that e-mails will be a valid piece of evidence under the new company law. They are already admissible in evidence the only fact is that lawyers, judges and regulatory bodies are not aware about the same.
According to Mr. Praveen Dalal*, the Leading Techno-Legal ICT, Cyber Law, Cyber Security and Cyber Forensics Specialist of India, “ The IT Act, 2000 already mandates legal recognition of electronic records and evidences. The problem seems to be a lack of awareness about it and absence of ICT guided coordination among various Ministries and Departments of Government of India (GOI). The GOI must hramonise legislations like IT Act, 2000, Cr.P.C, IPC, Evidence Act, CPC, Competition Act, 2002, etc at appropriate levels so as to avoid regulatory overlaps”.
India’s National E-Governance Plan (NEGP) is a very promising initiative. However, we lack competencies, will and proper policies and strategies in India to execute it effectively at this stage. Take for example the recent initiative of GOI titled as National e-Governance Services Delivery Gateway (NSDG). NSDG is a standard based messaging middleware for e-governance services. It is a part of the NEGP of Government of India. One wonders that why despite these initiatives, India’s ranking in the sphere of e-governance, e-readiness, etc is declining day by day. For instance, India’s e-readiness ranking dropped to 113 in 2008 from 87 in 2005.1 In the recent “Ease of Doing Business Rankings 2008”, released by the World Bank, India has been ranked 120th out of 178 countries.2 The ICT strategies of India need rejuvenation to make NEGP effective.3 Public Initiative needed to fill policy vacuum since Governmental policies and strategies are not benefiting the common man.4
However, not everything is wrong with the efforts of GOI. The initiative of setting up of a single portal to link businesses with various regulators and regulatory Ministries by the MCA is a good step. The portal aims at bringing in elements and concepts which would make it possible to take effective regulation and enforcement of the company laws and regulations at all stages, including inspections, investigations and prosecutions. The MCA rightly believes that we need sound strategies in this regard including improving the quality of regulation, improving policy formulation processes and creating a healthy business environment by streamlining the interaction and improving interface between government and business, cutting out the redundancies in procedures and emphasising immediate and efficient delivery of services.
The NEGP can be a reality rather than fiction if we concentrate upon the weaknesses of Indian ICT policies and strategies. The issues like legal enablement of ICT systems in India, public and governmental awareness of IT Act, 2000, formulation of effective ICT strategies and policies in India, etc must be resolved first before we can encash the benefits of e-governance in India.
*About Mr. Praveen Dalal
Mr. Praveen Dalal is the Managing Partner of Perry4Law and heading its PTLB, PTLITC, and other Techno-Legal Divisions that are providing Cyber Law, Cyber Security and Cyber Forensics Assistances and Services. Perry4Law is the First and Exclusive Techno-Legal and ICT Law Firm in India and is in operation since 2002. It deals with legal issues associated with ICT and use of ICT for legal purposes. PTLB and PTLITC are few of the Techno-Legal ICT initiatives of Perry4Law and are in the process of upgradation and formalisation. Mr. Praveen Dalal’s specialisations include areas like Cyber Law, Cyber Security, Cyber Forensics, Digital Evidencing, Corporate ICT Compliances, etc.