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No classified files should be in e-office format: Govt manual

New Delhi: With many central offices taking digital or paperless route, the government is making extra efforts to ensure that classified information stays ‘confidential’ and ‘secure’. The latest central government manual says that no classified files should be in e-office format. It also firms up the clauses to ensure confidentiality of official communication, even as it opens up VPN based access to e-files to deputy secretaries of the government of India. Over 1.45 million government files from 84 ministries and departments are currently in the e-office format.

The rule book that minutely dictates the functioning of every central government office and the movement of a typical government file is known as the Central Secretariat Manual of Procedure (CSMP). The 16th edition of this manual, which integrates E-office with the conventional government office, was released on Wednesday but with much caution and precaution in place. The latest version of the 1955 manual says ‘no classified information shall be handled through e-office.’ It specifies that ‘classified’ documents shall strictly be carried out only in a standalone computer or connected on a “dedicated network air gapped from internet.”

With the government machinery over-stretched and file movement dictated by strict rules, the centre has also agreed to open its ‘Virtual Private Network’ to deputy secretaries to the Government of India. It will allow an officer of the deputy secretary level to work on the office file after office hours and from home. This increased access to the government communication system also comes with due riders. VPN access will be for working on non-classified e-files only and the issuance of VPNs will also be done with due diligence and security reviews. National Informatics Centre is to introduce additional security features for secure VPN use as well.

The revised manual says no government servant except under special orders communicate “directly or indirectly any official document or any part thereof or classified information to any government servant or any other person to whom he is not authorised to communicate such document or classified information”. Government records are generally categorised into three types – Category A (files of historical importance which must be permanently preserved and microfilmed), Category B (files which need to be permanently preserved but not microfilmed) and Category C (files that are to be kept for a specified period: usually 10 years). However, it has now been decided the e-files will be recorded only under two categories – A and B.

Source: Economic Times