By Ashwani Mishra

Robert Alan Soloway, known as the Spam King, was indicted last month by a Seattle (US) jury on charges of fraud, money laundering and identity theft. As per reports, he siphoned out about US $773,000 through spamming-related activities.

A joint investigation led by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, FBI, Federal Trade Commission, the Internal Revenue Service Department of Criminal Investigations, and the US Postal Inspection Service resulted in his eventual arrest. This was made possible by the US CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act). And last month the Singapore government enacted its Spam Control Act to address the growing global problem of spam.

As of today, the Indian government has yet to come out with a legislation that directly addresses the issue of spam. The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act 2000) does not contain any provision regulating the act of spamming though it does regulate obscenity, which covers publishing, transmitting or causing to be published in electronic form any material which is lascivious, or appeals to the prurient interest.

However, last month, the Indian Ministry of Information Technology had a discussion to incorporate a provision to have legislation against spammers.

“This is a good development from the government. The ministry should create a panel and involve more technical people and experts from the IT industry when it plans to have legislation for cyber security and IT laws,” says Karnika Seth, attorney-at-law & partner, Seth Associates.

According to sources, the ministry pondered whether the punishment to spammers would be done after verifying the nature of the spam attack, that is, whether the act of spamming was done inadvertently or on purpose.

“Cyber law in India is still in its infancy, and a lot of efforts and initiatives are required to make it a mature legal instrument. The government needs to give a fresh look to the existing IT Act 2000 to make it safer, stronger and more appropriate. It must also keep in mind the absolute requirements of ICT and cyber security in India that are drastically missing,” says Delhi-based Praveen Dalal, advocate, arbitrator and consultant, Supreme Court of India.

The government is looking at setting up a Center for Communication Security Research and Monitoring to monitor the activities of criminal elements online, and has sanctioned Rs 50 crore for the same. The nodal implementation agency is Center for Development of Telematics. The research side of the Center will focus on Multiple communication technologies in order to monitor all traffic types (satellite, wire line, wireless, internet, email, IM, VoIP), Encrypted communication for de-encryption of Net-based encryption methods being used by terrorists, Regulatory standard to ensure compliance by telecom operators and equipment vendors and System design among other things.