The Delhi High Court today asked the Centre to put in place "expeditiously" the proposed e-mail policy for government employees which will ensure that they will not use Internet services of "external service providers" for official communications.
The Department of Electronics and Information Technology apprised the bench headed by Acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed that the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) has met recently and undertaken a wider consultation process among stake-holders in the country for devising the proposed e-mail policy.
The court asked the Centre to issue an advisory to the employees, who have already been given e-mail accounts by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), not to use Internet services of external service providers for official purposes.
Additional Solicitor General Rajeev Mehra said around 4.5 lakh employees have already been given e-mail accounts by the NIC and the technical upgradation would be required to provide the facility to around five million other employees.
"You (Centre) will issue an advisory that those people who have been given official e-mail accounts (nic.In) will immediately use that e-mail ids and to increase the number of employees on official accounts," the court said.
The bench clarified that the server pertaining to the official e-mail account should be "housed in India itself".
The bench, also comprising Justice Sidharth Mridul, asked the Department of Electronics and Information Technology to process the e-mail policy with the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) within two weeks and the CoS.
Yesterday, the Centre filed an affidavit saying government employees will be given e-mail accounts for "mandatory" use in official communications and use of Internet services of "external service providers" will be prohibited.
The Information Technology department, which has been rapped by the court for not coming out with the e-mail policy for government officials, said the CoS has undertaken a wider consultation process among stake-holders in the country.
"The E-mail Policy of the Government of India lays down the guidelines with respect to use of email services. As per the proposed policies, e-mail accounts will be given to all the employees of the Government and it will be mandatory for them to use this e-mail account for all official communications," the affidavit said.
The court has now fixed the PIL filed by former BJP leader K N Govindacharya for further hearing on April 30.
Earlier, the court had come down heavily on the Centre for not framing the e-mail policy for government employees in consonance with the Public Records Act, saying all sensitive official data cannot be transferred to a server outside India.
The Service Tax department has also filed its response to the issues raised by Govindacharya in the PIL and said its rules are applicable to Facebook India and Google India.
The Income Tax department, in its separate response, has told the HC that the income of Facebook India and Google India are subject to Indian tax regime and their foreign counterparts did not fall under the Indian taxation net.
The PIL has raised various issues including use of e-mail services, provided by offshore providers, by government officials for official purposes.
The websites evade taxes and make public the personal details of Indian users, it said, adding even minors below 13 years of age are being allowed to use Facebook due to lack of proper mechanism.
Govindacharya, in the PIL, also said that the government officials usually use Gmail accounts, whose servers are outside India, and transfer the official data through them which is violative of the Public Records Act.
The plea, filed through counsel Virag Gupta, has also sought a direction to ensure safety of the data of 50 million Indian users which was transferred "to the US and is being used for commercial gains in violation of the right to privacy."