A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul warned the government of “coercive action” if it keeps on delaying the email policy despite the court order.
“You don’t want us to take any coercive action. Do you?” the bench said after Additional Solicitor General Rajeeve Mehra told the court that a meeting of the committee of secretaries will be held in three weeks.
“It is unfortunate you take so much time to do such small things,” the court noted. “I don’t know why you keep blaming the politicians. Look at the bureaucrats, they are forming one committee after another.”
The bench also asked a responsible senior officer to be present in court to indicate the government’s response on the issue.
The court’s remark came on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader K.N. Govindacharya. He sought direction to the central government to bring in an e-mail policy for government officials in consonance with the Public Records Act in order to bar transfer of data to a server outside the country.
The central government on October 30 told the court that it is on the verge of finalising the email policy for government employees, and has sought opinion from various ministries on it. The court then granted it four weeks’ time.
Petitioner’s advocate Virag Gupta said that despite the court’s direction, top officials of the IT and communications ministry are still using private email IDs, posing a big security risk.
The petitioner alleged that officials were also using social networking sites and other email accounts with service providers, whose servers were outside India, for official communications instead of the government server of the National Informatics Centre (nic.in).
The plea added that the use of email accounts whose servers were outside India and transfer of nation’s official data using this medium violated the Public Records Act.
The court would next hear the case February 19.