Government notifies Email Policy but is it an eyewash?

Government notifies Email Policy but is it an eyewash?

The Centre informed the Delhi High Court that “Office memorandum (O.M.) dated 30.09.2014 has been issued by the Department of Electronics & IT (DietY) to all Government Ministries and Departments advising them to comply with “Framework & Guidelines for Use of Social Media for Government Organizations” notified by DietY” and that “Email policy of the Government of India has been notified vide gazette notification dated 18.02.2015 by Diet Y, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology to ensure secure access and usage of Government of India Email services by its users.”

Interestingly, the responsibility regarding emails has been cast upon users and there is no punishment provided for violation of the same, as provided in the Public Records Act, 1993.

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain submitted, "The objective of this policy is to ensure proper access to and usage of government's IT resources and prevent their misuse by the users... It also addresses the issue related to use of social media on government network."

Regarding social media and Public Records Act, the Centre submitted, “prior approval- for taking any Public Record out of India’ is automatically accorded when Central Government enters into an agreement with a Social Media company, viz. Face-book.”

On the other hand, Counsel for the Petitioner, Mr. Virag Gupta submitted that the email policy is an eyewash, as it “does not mention any legal authority or reference to any law under which this policy is made.” He also said, “There is no provision for any punishment for any violation in the policy and it also not mentioned provisions of Public Records Act as mentioned in Government previous advisory dated 27th Nov. 2014 on use of Email.”

Highlighting the issue of usage of private email by the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Mr. Gupta submitted that as per government of India, there are more than 50 lacs Government Employees while only 5 lacs use Government’s NIC network. As a naturally corollary, he submitted that either the rest of the 45 lacs do not use email, which is a big blow to the Government’s Digital India campaign or they use private email, which is in violation of Section 4 of the Public Records Act, making them liable for punishment.

He also said that the government has not filed any reply on surrender of IP Rights on government data while using Facebook or Twitter. He highlighted how “Government did not file a reply on illegal financial gains to such companies.”

The Court today asked the petitioner’s counsel to provide a synopsis containing all pending issues and fixed the matter for a detailed hearing on April 8.

You may read more of our coverage of the case here.