India today established three Grievance Appellate Committees based on the recently amended Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (“IT Rules 2021”).
As per the notification published on January 28, three Grievance Appellate Committees have been constituted with three members each.
As per the notification, each of the three grievances appellate committees (GACs) will have a chairperson, two whole-time members from different government entities, and retired senior executives from the industry for a term of three years from the date of assumption of office.
Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre Chief Executive Officer Rajesh Kumar is the chairperson of first GAC. Retired IPS official Ashutosh Shukla and Former Chief General Manager and Chief Information Officer, Punjab National Bank Sunil Soni are the members. The second panel will be chaired by the joint secretary in charge of the Policy and Administration Division in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Vikram Sahay. Indian Navy’s retired Commodore Sunil Kumar Gupta, and former vice-president (consulting) of L&T Infotech Kavindra Sharma are the others in this panel. Senior scientist at the Ministry of Electronics and IT Kavita Bhatia will chair the third committee. Former traffic service officer of the Indian Railways Sanjay Goel, and former managing director and chief executive officer of IDBI Intech Krishnagiri Ragothamarao have been appointed whole-time members of the third panel.
RELEVANCE OF GAC
The Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) is a critical piece of overall policy and legal framework to ensure that Internet in India is Open, Safe & Trusted and Accountable. The need for GAC was created due to large numbers of grievances being left unaddressed or unsatisfactorily addressed by Internet Intermediaries. GAC is expected to create a culture of responsiveness amongst all Internet Platforms and Intermediaries towards their consumers. The GAC will be a virtual Digital platform that will operate only online and digitally – wherein the entire appeal process, from filing of appeal to the decision thereof, shall be conducted digitally.
The appeals can be made on https://www.gac.gov.in
Users will have the option to appeal against decision of the grievance officer of the social media intermediaries and other online intermediaries before this new appellate body. The Committee will endeavour to address the user’s appeal within a period of 30 days.
THE CREATION OF GACs
The IT rules 2021 provide for creating avenues for grievance redressal apart from Courts and ensure that the Constitutional rights of Indian citizens are not contravened by any Big-tech Platform by ensuring new accountability standards for SSMIs.
During the extensive public consultations on the ITRules, the Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship Rajeev Chandrasekhar had articulated the stand of the Government that – safety and trust of every Digital Nagrik, and robust grievance redressal system to ensure accountability of all Internet platforms offering a service or product, was an unambiguous goal and that all grievances must be 100% addressed.
The Government had earlier interacted with major social media intermediaries. Keeping in view of the transition period required for the intermediaries as per their requests and technical requirement, the online platform will be operational in one month of this notification of the Grievance Appellate Committee, i.e. from 1st March 2023. Periodic reviews of GACs and reporting and disclosures of GAC orders will also be part of process.