The central government has proposed a national email policy for official communication of government employees, saying the objective of the policy is to ensure "secure access and usage of data" by them.
In an affidavit filed in the high court, the department of electronics and information technology said that the use of email accounts of external service providers like Gmail, Yahoo will be "prohibited for official communication" by the government employees.
"The email Policy of the government of India lays down the guidelines with respect to use of email services. As per the proposed policies, email accounts will be given to all the employees of the government and it will be mandatory for them to use this email account for all official communications," said the affidavit.
email accounts will be given to all the employees of the government
Earlier, a division bench of Acting Chief Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Sidharth Mridul had asked the central government to bring in an email 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 public interest litigation (PIL) filed by former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader K.N. Govindacharya, said 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 central government in its affidavit also stated that it has proposed another policy "Policy on Acceptable Use of IT Resources of Government of India" that lays down the guidelines with respect to use of all T resources.
"This would apply to all IT resources, owned or leased by government of India, and services accessible on or through them. The objective of this policy is to ensure proper access and usage of government of India's IT resources by all its users and protect the Information and Communications Technology infrastructure of the Government from any misuse."
It is further submitted that similar practice is being followed in several countries like Singapore, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Ecuador, Sweden, and the UAE. "In the United States of America, the White House does not allow its officials to access emails of private email service providers at work."
The "email Policy of Government of India" and "Policy on Acceptable use of IT Resources of Government of India" also required a wider consultation among different stake holders both in the central and state governments, said the affidavit.
It said that the government has undertaken a wider consultation process among the stake holders in the country and the "consultation process included policy issues, ways and means of implementation of policies, enhancement of infrastructure and other related issues."
Since both the policies have to be implemented across the country, approval of such policies have to be at the level whose decisions are binding on such matters across the country, stated the affidavit.
"The competent authority for consideration of policies which are applicable across the ministries and states is the committee of secretaries (CoS) headed by cabinet secretary. The other members of the meeting are secretaries of the important ministries," it added.
These policies were considered by the CoS March 14 and largely supported by the members. However, there have been some issues regarding the enforcement and enhancement of infrastructure to cater to the large number of government employees and also implementation of techniques for securing the infrastructure and data contained in the mail servers, it said.
"In order to implement these two policies, significant augmentation in the existing infrastructure is required. The department has already initiated the process of this augmentation. The infrastructure will be scaled up to address the requirements of issuing email ids to five million government employees and to cater to a larger user base as and when required."
(With agency inputs)