01, Mar 2019
Prelims level : Mains level : GS 3: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- The central government defended in the Supreme Court an earlier notification enabling 10 agencies to monitor, intercept and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.
- The Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday that its December 20, 2018 notification allowing 10 central agencies to snoop on people is in fact a measure to protect citizens’ privacy.
- The government was responding to a petition filed by advocate ML Sharma challenging the December 20 notification as a violation of the fundamental right to privacy. In January, the Supreme Court had issued a notice to the Centre and ordered it to respond within six weeks.
- According to the order, service providers, subscribers and those in charge of a computer resource will be bound to extend all technical assistance to the agencies, and failing to do so will lead to imprisonment.
- After the order had led to severe criticism from several Opposition parties, the Centre clarified it had not conferred any new powers on any central security or law enforcement agency. The notification was in accordance with rules framed in 2009 under the United Progressive Alliance government, the ministry had then said.
- The Centre argued that the order to monitor computers was in national interest. “Surveillance is done only in the defence of India, to maintain public order, etc that the country faced grave threats from terrorism, radicalisation, cross-border terrorism, cybercrime and drug cartels. There is a need for “speedy collection of actionable intelligence” to counter threat to national interests.
- The order provided surveillance powers to only 10 central agencies. “What has been done under the December 20 order is in fact restricting the exercise of powers, removing a possible vagueness and specifying the agencies/organisations who only would have the powers to utilise the powers of section 69 of the [Information Technology] Act.
- The order was to ensure that surveillance is carried out as per law, and that any interception, monitoring, decryption of computer resources is done by authorised agencies and with approval of the competent authority.
- The Centre argued that the order would prevent unauthorised use of surveillance powers by any agency, individual or intermediary, and would not violate the right to privacy of citizens.
- The order allows central agencies, from the Intelligence Bureau to the Central Board of Direct Taxes to the Cabinet Secretariat (RAW) to the Commissioner of Delhi Police, to intercept, monitor and de-crypt “any information” generated, transmitted, received or stored in “any computer resource”.
- The order is based on Section 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act of 2000 and Rule 4 of the Information Technology 2009 Rules (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception,Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.