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Law on information and communication technology

ICT is being developed at a tremendous speed and computer is the major invention or the result of the same. Outcome of ICT has been used by all professions or businesses in the world like for surgeries done by surgeons in theatres equipped with Information Technology goods or services.

Engineers design bridges or buildings using computers and accountants also make their accounts on computers. There are rules that govern even nature.

Likewise, Information and Communication Technology also must have governing laws and rules for its existence. Law relating to ICT is not an isolated subject. Its involvement could be seen in any given area like criminal law, civil law, labour law, intellectual property law, taxation law and so on.

Development of laws dealing with ICT

The laws are being developed to improve ICT and resolve its disputes efficiently.

However, it is impossible to make changes or introduce laws and regulations on every change or modification in ICT.

Therefore, there must a governing framework and guidance under ICT Law to deal with its present and possible future problems.

CT law development in other jurisdictions

In the UK Computer Misuse Act (1990), Trade Marks Act (1994), Defamation Act (1996), Data Protection Act (1998), the Copyright and Related Regulations (1996), Electronic Communication Act (2000), Telecommunications Regulations (1999), ‘The Consumer Protection (Distant Selling) Regulations (2000) have been introduced to fulfill obligations upon international treaties and agreements entered into by the United Kingdom. There is a rapid development in ICT Law in the neighbouring country, India.

Likewise, necessary legislation has been introduced in countries like United States of America, Malaysia and Australia.

Development of legislation under ICT in Sri Lanka

Computer evidence is neither original evidence nor derivative evidence. This is the situation in Sri Lanka and in Benwell vs. Republic of Sri Lanka it was held that computer evidence is in a category of its own.

Under the law of Sri Lanka, computer evidence is not admissible under the Evidence Ordinance.

There was a need to have law reforms regarding acceptance of computer evidence regarding acceptance of computer evidence.

Acts and regulations introduced in Sri Lanka relating to ICT

The Evidence (Special Provisions) Act No. 14 of 1995, the Information and Communication Technology Act No. 27 of 2003, the Payment and Settlement Systems Act No. 28 of 2005, the Electronic Transactions Act No. 19 of 2006, the Payment Devices Frauds Act No. 30 of 2006 and the Computer Crime Act No. 24 of 2007. Further, Telecommunications Act No. 25 of 1991 and No. 27 of 1996 were enacted introducing the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) and Interconnection Rules 2003 have been introduced and Director-General of TRCSL has issued the public notice on International Traffic bypass Control Rules of 2003.

Purpose of enacting the Information Technology Act

The purpose is explained in the preamble of the Act No. 27 of 2003 as “to provide provisions for the establishment of the National Committee on Information and Communication Technology of Sri Lanka and to provide for the setting out of National Policy on ICT and for the preparation of an action plan, the appointment of a Task Force for ICT, the establishment of the ICTA of Sri Lanka charged with the implementation of the National Policy in both the public and private sectors and for the matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

Main objective of the Evidence (Special Provisions) Act No. 14 of 1995

The main objective of the Act is “to provide for the admissibility of audiovisual recordings and information contained in statements produced by computers in civil and criminal proceedings and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.”

Electronic Transactions Act in Sri Lanka

By introducing the Electronic Transactions Act No. 19 of 2006, Parliament intended to recognise and facilitate the formation of contracts, the creation and exchange or data messages, electronic documents, electronic records and other communications in electronic form in Sri Lanka.

Further, the Act provides for the appointment of a Certification Authority and accreditation of Certification Service Providers and matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Other relevant laws dealing with ICT in Sri Lanka

One of the objectives of section 2 of the Payment and Settlement Systems Act No. 28 of 2005 is to facilitate the electronic presentment of cheques.

Provisions of Payment Devices Frauds Act No. 30 of 2006 deal with fraudulent transactions that have taken place in connection with electronic devices as well.

The Computer Crime Act No. 24 of 2007 has been enacted to provide for the identification of computer crimes and to provide the procedure for the investigation and prevention of such crimes and to provide for related matters therewith.

Practical aspects relating to applicability of ICT law

As far as the present legal provisions are concerned, Sri Lanka is not second to any other developed or developing country in dealing with ICT related matters subject to few exceptions. However, there is no legislation for data protection or privacy policies to handle some ICT related issues efficiently. As far as the experiences in other jurisdictions are concerned there can be a number of practical issues due to lack of the said laws in Sri Lanka.

What is the way forward?

There is no debate that until the investigators are trained, fully equipped computer forensic laboratories are setup and the knowledge of Judges, lawyers and academics involved in ICT related matters are improved; these laws and rules will be confined only to books. These practical aspects should be gradually resolved. Educating the public will immensely contribute to improve the situation.

 

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