Snooping row: Cong plans to challenge MHA order in court

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New Delhi, Dec 23: Even as the BJP defended the ministry of home affairs’ order allowing 10 central agencies to monitor any computer resource, the Congress termed the directive as unconstitutional and said it will soon be challenged in the court.
On December 20, the MHA issued a directive authorising select security and intelligence agencies for the purposes of “interception, monitoring, and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.”
Alleging that the latest directive will be misused by the enforcement agencies, Sibal said “They gave this power to Delhi Commissioner of Police, CBDT. Earlier, the right was given to the MHA only. Now they’ve given this right to every institution. After the privacy judgement, Supreme Court had said that privacy is a human right. I think it is an unconstitutional decision and it will get challenged in court soon because if you give Commissioner of police this power, he will use it. These powers will be misused in the same way the enforcement agencies misuse other powers.”
Calling the order an attack on democracy ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress leader said — “Home Secretary is their own man. Whoever makes an intervention, be it CBDT, Commissioner of Police, Home Secretary will give his stamp on it. If it goes to Home Secretary, he will put his stamp and these powers can be delegated as well. These can be given to different organisations, other states. This is a bad step. They have been attacking democracy daily and will continue to do so because 2019 is approaching.”
Meanwhile, the BJP, citing two RTI applications, said that 9000 telephone calls and 500 emails were intercepted in the year 2013 on the order of UPA-2 government.
Defending, MHA’s order, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra clarified that the December 20 directive did not authorise any “new agency” to intercept calls or emails.
Accusing Congress and the opposition parties of indulging in double speak and hypocrisy, Patra said — “In August 2013, while replying to an RTI query, the UPA II government informed that on an average there were 9000 telephone calls which were intercepted, per months by the order of the then central government. During the same period, 500 emails were also intercepted.”
“Later another RTI query was filed on November 21, 2013, which sought the details of agencies authorised to intercept call and emails. Reply of the same was given on 24 December 2013, which stated that 10 agencies including nine central agencies and one state agencies were authorised for the intercepting the data. The list included IB, NCB, ED, CBDT, DRI, CBI, NIA, RAW among other as well as state DGP’s and Commissioner of Police, Delhi,” Patra added.
He also alleged that the Congress party, which was intercepting 9000 calls and 500 emails per month, is now making false allegations of spying.
Home minister Rajnath Singh said that he will speak on the matter in Parliament.
“The Ministry has already issued a clarification. I can’t say anything on it right now as the Parliament is in session. If I am asked, I will speak on it in the Parliament,” he said.
On December 21, the Centre clarified that every individual case will continue to require the prior approval of Union Home Ministry or the state government.
“Union Home Affairs Ministry has not delegated its power to any law enforcement or security agencies,” the Central government clarified.
“The notification does not confer any new powers and adequate safeguards are provided in the IT Act 2000,” the government further said, stating that similar provisions and procedures already exist in the Telegraph Act along with identical safeguards.
The Congress party has been cornering the central government while terming the move “an attempt to convert India into a surveillance state”.
“Through this order, the BJP government is converting India into a surveillance state. It is the ultimate assault on fundamental rights and the right to privacy. It is also in direct conflict with the Supreme Court judgement which states that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. The government has done it by stealth, we collectively oppose it because this gives unlimited power to all these agencies to monitor every information to intercept and complete surveillance, which is completely unacceptable in our democracy,” senior Congress leader Anand Sharma had said on December 21.