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SC issues notice to Centre, to examine Govt’s ‘snooping’ order

The Cyber and Information Security division of the Ministry of Home Affairs, in a major step, had authorised 10 investigating agencies to intercept and monitor information in any computer source.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the Government’s December 20 notification allowing 10 agencies to monitor any computer resource.

The court further said that it will examine the matter and sought the Centre’s reply in six weeks.

The Cyber and Information Security division of the Ministry of Home Affairs, in a major step, had authorised 10 investigating agencies to intercept and monitor information in any computer source. The order was signed by Union Home Secretary, Rajiv Gauba.

With this, the probe agencies could intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer source under 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. They were also authorised to intercept as well as tap phones.

The following probe agencies have been authorised to do so — 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 J-K, North-East and Assam only) and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

As per the order, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies. Failing to do so could invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.

Opposition leaders have been criticising the government over the decision.

Reacting to the development, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram had likened the order with the Orwellian state — a condition that George Orwell identified as destructive for a free society.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley later accused the Congress party of spreading ill-information regarding the authorisation granted to 10 investigating agencies.

Jaitley had said that the Information Technology Act, which has been in existence for almost two decades, authorises to direct a notified agency to intercept or monitor or decrypt an information stored in a computer resource “in the interest of sovereignty, integrity etc”.