In a recent development, the Delhi High Court has slammed the Indian Government and questioned its delay in framing the Email policy for government employees in harmony with the Public Records Act, so that official data is not transferred to a server outside India. The Government came at the receiving end after it failed to frame a policy even after being advised to do so in the last quarter of 2013.

The proceedings that were being carried out by a bench of justices BD Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul, also warned the government of coercive action if they continued to delay the framing of the e-mail policy despite its order. The bench that criticized the lack of initiative from bureaucrats on this matter, pointed out that a senior official from concerned department be present before it to explain the stand of the Union of India on February 24, the next date of hearing.

Last year after the Guardian revealed how the NSA was snooping confidential data of different countries, the Indian government decided to ask its employees to stop using Google’s Gmail for official communication. The measure was taken since Google has its servers in the US; the employees were asked to stick to the official email service provided by India’s National Informatics Centre.

The move to use this official email service didn’t gain much support but the matter became critical when BJP leader K N Govindacharya filed a PIL asking for framing an email policy. Addressing the concerns raised by the PIL on cyber snooping, Delhi High Court gave four weeks of time to frame the policy.

Then it was told that the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY) was drafting a policy on email usage for government offices and departments and the policy was almost ready. DEITY Secretary J Satyanarayana shared that the department was in the process of taking views from other ministries on the policy and that the email policy would be operational by end of December 2013.

Around Christmas last year, reports resurfaced that the policy would be announced shortly by Minister of State for Communications and IT, Milind Deora. However, the email policy that is expected to cover about 5 to 6 lakh Central and State government employees – costing a whopping 50-100 crore to make it fully operational – is nowhere close to implementation. I wonder what excuse the government will have on its next hearing!

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