5 industry bodies had objected to IT rules

NEW DELHI: At least five industry bodies had written to the Union government between April and May urging it to reconsider the implementation of the IT Rules in its current form before they came into effect.
These letters, written by CII, FICCI, Assocham, US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and the US India Business Council (USIBC) pointed out that the criminal liability imposed on intermediaries in the new IT rules could have seriously detrimental impacts on companies’ ease of doing business. TOI has copies of the letters.
The letters, addressed to IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney, had also asked the government to extend the time allocated to social media companies for implementation of the rules which came into effect on May 25.
The letter by Assocham dated April 21 refers to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, which brought about significant changes in the way intermediaries operated in the region, but stressed that even GDPR was implemented over a course of six months. The new rules, on the other hand, gave only three months to companies for complete compliance.
The USIBC referred to the Rules as important policy issues that need further thoughts. “Due to the Covid crisis, we normally would not reach out to your office with policy issues, albeit important ones,” reads the letter, adding that “it is essential for the Indian government to address industry concerns with regard to two key aspects of the rules” namely the implementation duration and imposition of personal criminal liability on intermediaries’ employees.
“This possibility of imposition of criminal liability of the employees of an intermediary is at odds with modern corporate criminal liability jurisprudence, which is leaning towards replacing criminal liability with monetary penalties, in the interests of ease of doing business and better enforcement of laws,” reads the letter.
CII and FICCI (April 1) also asked for the provision of criminal liability to be rolled back completely, while USISPF on April 23 asked for “an extension of six months be granted for the industry to implement the IT Rules 2021”.
The new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, were notified on February 25, to “regulate online content” in order to deal with the menace of fake news, child sexual abuse material and revenge porn, among other things. They also called for the appointment of local statutory officers to facilitate takedown requests and cooperate with law enforcement agencies.

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