Image for representational use only. | Image courtesy : India TV
NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Home Affairs on December 20, has issued an unprecedented order authorising 10 security and intelligence agencies with “interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.”
As per the notification, the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi are now enabled with the snooping powers.
This order mandates any subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of any computer resource to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies. As per 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the notification also invites seven-year imprisonment and fine if anyone does not adhere by the order.
With this new development, these agencies which already enjoy the power to tap phone calls with permission from Union Home Secretary, are now authorised to intercept any information of the citizens from their computer resources.
Unconstitutional, Says CPI(M)
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government drew criticism for its order from various quarters, including opposition parties and experts.
The CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury condemned the move on Twitter. “Why is every Indian being treated like a criminal? This order by a govt wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgement,” wrote Yechury.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi and Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram compared the order to a situation of “Orwellian State”.
Owaisi tweeted: “Modi has used a simple Government Order to permit our national agencies to snoop on our communications. Who knew that this is what they meant when they said ‘ghar ghar Modi’. George Orwell’s Big Brother is here & welcome to 1984.”
“If anybody is monitoring computers then it is an Orwellian state,” Chidambaram was quoted as saying.
Biju Janata Dal leader Tathagata Satapathy tweeted: “Even in the twilight period of this 16th Lok Sabha, this Govt's love for spy games (without Parliament's or Judicial control/oversight) is amazing. Tax payers' money spent for snooping on tax payers' privacy. None bothered that external intel is failing.”
The government has also set up the Centralized Monitoring System (CMS) to automate the process of “Lawful Interception & Monitoring of telecommunications”. For this, 21 Regional Monitoring Centers have already been technically commissioned across the country.
However, so far, no justification has been specified from the government’s side on the purpose of this all new invasive system.