Backing the move with national interest and threats to national security, the Centre said it was only filling glaring gaps in the surveillance laws left by the UPA regime which had facilitated illegal snooping in the past such as the Nira Radia tapes
New Delhi: In the face of Opposition crying hoarse, the Centre on Friday released a notification arming 10 agencies to legally intercept or decrypt any information for the purpose of national security.
Backing the move with national interest and threats to national security, the Centre said it was only filling glaring gaps in the surveillance laws left by the UPA regime and which facilitated illegal snooping such as the Nira Radia tapes.
As the Opposition whipped up a storm in Rajya Sabha, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said the surveillance was for maintaining national security and that the rules of surveillance had first been passed by the Congress-led UPA regime back in 2009.
The 20th December notification is a codification of the SOP issued by the MHA on May 19, 2011 when Chidambaram was Home Minister.
Jaitley said the Opposition was making a mountain where even a molehill did not exist.
According to section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Centre or a state government or any of its officers could direct any agency to intercept or decrypt any information for the purpose of national security.
The UPA government had brought the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, to define the procedure and safeguards for such interception.
It also says that “no person shall carry out the interception or decryption of any information except by an order issued by the competent authority”.
The IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules 2009 also says that “the competent authority may authorise an agency of the Government to intercept or decrypt information.”
So while the UPA government in 2009 made it compulsory that only authorised agencies could carry out surveillance, it left several crucial gaps, such as not giving a list of the agencies which were authorised. This left enough scope for unlawful and illegal surveillance.
The BJP-led Centre has issued a list of 10 agencies which could legally and legitimately pursue surveillance in the interest of national security.
The government maintained that the notification did not confer any new powers and adequate safeguards are provided in the IT Act, 2000.
Similar provisions and procedures already exist in the Telegraph Act along with identical safeguards. The present notification is analogous to the authorisation issued under the Telegraph Act. The entire process is also subject to a robust review mechanism as in case of Telegraph Act.
Every individual case will continue to require prior approval of Home ministry or state government. The MHA has not delegated its powers to any law enforcement or security agency.
The recent order would ensure that no other agency except the following could intercept, monitor or decrypt information
- 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)
- Commissioner of Police, Delhi
The notification would ensure that provisions of law relating to lawful interception or monitoring of computer resource were followed to the letter and under approval of the competent authority, i.e., Union Home Secretary.
BJP hits back
BJP president Amit Shah has hit back hard at Rahul Gandhi, accusing him of 'fear-mongering'. He even went to the extent of suggesting that "there were only two insecure dictators in the history of India", insinuating it to be Nehru and Indira Gandhi, without naming them.
There were only 2 insecure dictators in the history of India.— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 21, 2018
One imposed emergency and the other wanted unrestricted access to read letters of common citizens.
Guess who were they @RahulGandhi ?
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also said that the rules under which agencies have been authorised to intercept were framed in 2009 when the Congress-led UPA was in power.
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Last Updated Dec 21, 2018, 7:05 PM IST