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CEO approval for more than two .in domain registrations is for “national security” reasons: NIXI

The new requirement has drawn flak as red tape that may unduly impact individual registrants and startups.

The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) placed restrictions on bulk registering of .in domains due to “national security” reasons, a Right to Information (RTI) response has revealed.

NIXI is the government-appointed authority responsible for managing .in domains and in December last year, the authority published an order stating that entities looking to bulk register .in domains will now require approval from the CEO of NIXI. According to the notice, written approval from the CEO is required in the following two scenarios:

  1. Individual registrants looking to register more than two domains
  2. Registered accredited company looking to register more than a hundred domains

Based on this order, the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) filed an RTI request with NIXI in January 2022 asking for the reasons behind the restrictions. Avoiding transparency and any further elaboration, NIXI responded that the decision was taken with respect to “national security.”

Powers granted by the Registry-Registrar Agreement: NIXI

IFF also asked for the legal grounds under which such an order was issued, to which, NIXI responded saying “the new policy is as per the powers available with the Registry under the Registry-Registrar Agreement (Clause no 9.19).”

Clause 9.19 of the Registry-Registrar Agreement states:

Amendments: This Agreement may be amended only by a written agreement signed by authorized representatives of both parties. Notwithstanding anything mentioned here above, .IN Registry at its discretion may post/publish new or amended Policies and/or Advisories on at the Registry Website from time to time and the Registrar accepts that by virtue of their publication on such a website the Registrar shall deemed to have notice of such new or amended Policies and/or Advisories.”

Basically, this clause allows NIXI to introduce new requirements for Registrars merely by uploading a notice on its website. There is no requirement for stakeholders consultations or any formal process before such new policies are framed.

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Full list of questions asked by IFF

IFF asked the following questions, out of which NIXI only responded to the first two. IFF said that the response is illegal and has filed a first appeal seeking more information:

  1. Please provide information regarding the legislation or the power under which the policy change to seek permission for domain registration after two successful registrations have been notified.
  2. Please provide information on whether any legal opinion was sought from the Ministry of Law or any other Ministry for the change in policy.
  3. Please provide information with regard to whether any meetings were conducted to discuss the change in policy. If yes, please provide a list of individuals/ organizations who were a part of those meetings as well as the minutes of the meetings.
  4. Please provide information with regard to whether any third party consultations were sought for the change in policy. If yes, please provide information with regard to the basis on which these third parties were selected.
  5. Please provide a copy of all documents related to the queries herein specifically any legal opinions, minutes of meetings and reports related to the change in policy.

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