CERT-IN AND RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT

  • The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-in) may soon be exempt from responding to queries under the Right to Information Act.

 Key details:

  • A proposal was reviewed to include CERT-in in the Second Schedule to the RTI Act, which deals with exempted organisations like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Border Security Force.
  • The exemption would allow CERT-in to reject any application for information, even on policy related matters.
  • CERT-in coordinates with public and private organisations in India when cyber incidents like data breaches and ransomware attacks are reported.
  • It also issues advisories for software vulnerabilities as guidance for organisations.

What is CERT-In?

  • ‘Indian Computer Emergency Response Team’ (CERT-In) is the national agency for cyber security incident response and proactive measures for the prevention of cyber incidents in the Country.
  • CERT-In has been appointed by Central Government in under The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000).

What is Cyber Security Incident?

It means any real or suspected adverse event in relation to cyber security that violates an explicitly or implicitly applicable security policy resulting in unauthorised access, denial of service or disruption, unauthorised use of a computer resource for processing or storage of information or changes in data, information without authorisation.

Functions of CERT-In

  • Collection, analysis and dissemination of information on cyber incidents.
  • Forecast and alerts of cyber security incidents.
  • Emergency measures for handling cyber security incidents.
  • Coordination of cyber incident response activities.
  • Issue guidelines, advisories, vulnerability notes and whitepapers relating to information security practices, procedures, prevention, response and reporting of cyber incidents.
  • Such other functions relating to cyber security as may be prescribed.

What is RTI Act?

  • The Right To Information Act means that any Indian citizen can request any information (which is supposed to be public knowledge) from the offices and departments of the state or central governments.
  • The act mandates that the said offices and departments must process such requests in a timely manner.
  • RTI Act replaced the Freedom of Information Act 2002.
  • Mainly the act aims at achieving a corruption-free India.

Mandate of the RTI Act:

  • The RTI Act mandates that any Indian citizen is free to seek any information from any public or government authority and the authority is under liability to respond to such a request within a period of 30 days from the date of receiving such an application.
  • However, the information sought must not be related to defense, national security, or personal details.
  • Before the advent of the RTI act, the disclosure of information in India was restricted by the Official Secrets Act and some other special laws.
  • The RTI Act relaxed many such laws in the country.
  • The RTI act has also made it mandatory for computerizing the records. 

Features:

  • The authorities under RTI Act are called public authorities.
  • The Public Information Officer (PIO) perform quasi judicial function of deciding on the application and appeal respectively.
  • Since RTI is implicit in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, it is an implied fundamental right.

What Information can be sought under the RTI Act?

Any Indian citizen is free to seek answers from a Government Authority like:

  • applying for a delayed IT refund
  • driving license or passport
  • details of a repair or infrastructure project completed or going on
  • the funds allotted under the different kinds of relief funds in the country.
  • enables students to get copies of answer sheets from the universities
  • Exempted organisations

As per section 24 of the Act, intelligence and security organisations, both central and state, are exempted from the RTI Act except in cases of corruption or human rights violation:

  • Intelligence Bureau
  • Research and Analysis Wing including its technical wing, Aviation Research Centre
  • Directorate of Revenue Intelligence
  • Central Economic Intelligence Bureau
  • Directorate of Enforcement
  • Narcotics Control Bureau
  • Special Frontier Force
  • Border Security Force
  • Central Reserve Police Force
  • Indo-Tibetan Border Police
  • Central Industrial Security Force
  • National Security Guard
  • Assam Rifles
  • Sashastra Seema Bal
  • Directorate General of Income-tax (Investigation)
  • National Technical Research Organisation
  • Financial Intelligence Unit, India
  • Special Protection Group
  • Defence Research and Development Organisation
  • Border Roads Organisation

National Security Council Secretariat (secretariat of the National Security Council, in the Cabinet Secretariat)

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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