The order of Home Ministry gave extensive powers to the investigating agencies to monitor and intercept information on computer devices, which has drawn sharp reactions from the opposition, with Congress termed it as Modi government’s attempt to turn India into a “surveillance state”.
The 10 central agencies have been offered with powers of “interception, monitoring, and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer”. On Thursday, Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba has signed the order.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said that “through this order, the BJP government is turning India into a ‘surveillance state’. It is against the right to privacy… This shows the ultimate use of power. This is a big threat democracy.”
In Rajya Sabha, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has responded to Mr. Sharma, said that “On December 20, the same order of authorization was repeated that was existing since 2009. You are making a mountain where a molehill does not exist.” He continued that certain agencies “always had” the right to intercept the confidential date adding that “the authorization given to these agencies were brought to the law under the UPA government in 2009. We cannot gain access to anybody’s phone or data unless it is related to national security.”
The agencies that are authorised in the government orders are the Narcotics Control Bureau, Intelligence Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, CBI, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and Assam only), Central Board of Direct Taxes, and the Delhi Police Commissioner.
Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders Ramgopal Yadav has called the move “dangerous” adding that “all I would like to say to the BJP government is this – that in the next few months we will see a change of government. So it is best the BJP doesn’t dig a pit for itself.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has called it “dangerous”, which has sought public opinion on Twitter.
Left leader Sitaram Yechury tweets, “Why is every Indian being treated like a criminal? This order by a government wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgment.”
Meanwhile, AIMIM Chief Asaduddin Owaisi has weaved a pun out of George Orwell’s classic, 1984, to take on the government “who knew that this is what they meant when they said ‘Ghar Ghar Modi’.”
A senior bureaucrat explained to source that “for the first time, powers of scanning data at rest have been given to various agencies. Earlier, only data in motion could be intercepted. But now data revived, stored and generated can also be intercepted as powers of seizure have been given.”
This means not just emails or calls, but any data that can be found on a computer and can be intercepted as well. The agencies will further have the power to seize the devices.