PIL in Supreme Court against govt’s order to snoop on computers

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma challenging the government’s notification authorising 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any computer system.

What was the Order of the Home Ministry?

As per the notification of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, 10 central probe and snoop agencies are empowered under the Information Technology (IT) Act to carry out interception and analysis of data stored in any computer.

The 10 agencies empowered were Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police commissioner.

The order binds the service providers or any person in charge of the computer resource to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies and a failure to do so is penalised with seven-year imprisonment and fine.

Why the order has been challenged?

The reasons cited by the Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma in his PIL are:

  • The notification was illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires to the law.
  • The notification was being issued to restrict the political opponent, thinker and speaker to control the entire country under dictatorship to win coming general election under an undisclosed emergency as well as slavery which cannot be permitted within the Constitution of India.
  • The notification provides for blanket surveillance which must be tested against the fundamental right to privacy.
  • The notification enables the state to access every communication, computer and mobile and to use it to protect the political interest and object of the present executive political party.
  • The notification tries to create a surveillance state.

The government has defended the decision citing national security and claiming that the order was a mere repetition of the rules passed during the UPA regime in 2009.

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