'Experts' favour tweaking current municipal and state laws, rather than an overarching legislative framework

Last year, the central government announced plans to develop 100 'smart cities' over the next five years, with an outlay of Rs 1 lakh crore. However, the mission statement and guidelines from the ministry of urban development are silent on the legal framework to regulate and manage these.

Town planning and legal experts are more in favour of tweaking and strengthening the current municipal and state laws, rather than any over-arching legislative framework to govern these changed cities.

In the guidelines, the core infrastructure elements of a smart city cover urban mobility, water and electricity supply, sanitation, housing, e-governance, health and education, security and sustainability, all bounded and harnessed by the power of information technology (IT). "Considering the number of sub-sectors involved in creating a smart city, it is not possible to bring in an exclusive statute," says Padma Priya J, director, Grant Thornton India. The practical approach is to make amendments to individual statues, depending on a city's vision, the smart city plan, and the implementation framework, she adds.

Experts say that given the massive use of IT in the delivery and management of core infrastructure services, the volume of citizen data generated in a smart city is expected to grow exponentially over time. "The current IT Act might not give adequate protection to the citizen data that smart cities will generate," says Vaibhav Parikh, partner, Nishith Desai Associates.

One also has to watch out for cyber-criminal activities knocking on the IT platform of a smart city project. "There is need to put in place an appropriate legal framework to address such activities in the smart city eco-system," says Pavan Duggal, advocate, Supreme Court, and an expert in cyber law. Smart cities have to ensure that they comply with the National Cyber Security Policy, 2013.

Legal experts say the entire smart city system is based on electronic contracts. These are granted legality under the IT Act but has to appropriately look at the documentations and evidentiary proof of the contracts.