Consultation Meeting on Review of Information Technology Bill

Samriddhi Foundation, with an attempt to evaluate the registered Information technology bill and analyze whether the provisions of the bill act as restrictions to entrepreneurship and innovative business practices as well as the exercise of freedom of expression, prepared a policy brief on the same. Given that skepticism that followed after the legislation was registered in the House of Representatives almost a year back, a discussion with relevant stakeholders particularly the Ministry of Information Communication Technology and members of the Parliament as well as the private sector was felt necessary. The discussion was based on the policy brief prepared by Samriddhi Foundation which outlined the following key issues of concern:

– Improper definitions

– Uncertainty of enforcement of contracts concluded electronically

– Neglecting the principles of Law of Contract

– Cumbersome procedures

– Curtailing fundamental rights

– Liabilities of service providers

– Mandatory registration of Social Media companies

– Insufficient data retention periods

The discussion was moderated by Mr. Babu Ram Aryal, a leading expert in Cyber law and also a key figure in drafting the legislation.  Mr. Subash Dhakal who was also a key figure in drafting the legislation informed the entire panel about the intention behind the act and particular sections. While he agreed that changes were necessary in the existing bill, he also urged the panel to consider the intention behind the bill which he stressed was of the utmost importance.

The discussion primarily focused on provisions that were felt undesirable. The definition of many technical jargons properly and without vagueness, devoid of any room for discretionary interpretation was seen as a major concern among all the relevant stakeholders.

Members from a business organization especially internet service providers stressed the need for clearly defined procedures with regards to intermediary liability and mechanism for taking down content from websites. Harmonizing the provision related to Intermediary liability with Manila principles was suggested while, stressing the importance of seeing Internet service providers as intermediaries and not originators.

On a similar note, representatives from leading online businesses stated the need to harmonize the bill with regards to rules applicable for Nepalese online businesses and foreign online businesses operating in Nepal. Similarly, call for clarifying provisions in the bill that pose as restrictions to businesses and individual freedom was also done. In addition to this, a suggestion to incorporate as much as possible rather than leaving room for the exercise of discretionary power by the regulatory bodies through the means of regulations in the future was also made.

Mr Banshi Raj Poudel, Secretary of the Development and Technology committee of the HoR stated that amendments to the registered bill were made following consultative meetings in the past. He assured that the suggestion of the panel would be looked upon during the passage of the bill. All members were in agreement about the need for such a law given the changing circumstances while also acknowledging that the bill could be made better.