Uproar over snooping order, government says just ‘repeated’ UPA notification

ANAND SHARMA

New Delhi: A major controversy broke out on Friday with the government authorising ten central security and investigating agencies to monitor and intercept all computers, a decision that came under severe attack from the Opposition which accused the government of creating a surveillance state.

Strongly defending its action, the government hit back at the Congress saying the order was a mere repetition of a notification issued in 2009 during the UPA rule.

The issue came to the fore with the Union Home Ministry on Thursday issuing an order authorising 10 central security and investigative agencies and the Delhi Police to “intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer”.

The 10 agencies given the powers of interception are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, CBDT, DRI, CBI, NIA, RAW, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (for service areas of Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast and Assam only) and Delhi Police.

The Opposition, both inside and outside Parliament, slammed the government calling the decision an “undeclared Emergency” and an assault on the citizens’ fundamental right to privacy and demanded its withdrawal.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley rose to put up a strong defence of the government recalling that Thursday’s order was only a repetition of a similar order issued under the rules framed during the UPA regime in 2009 to the Information and Technology Act enacted in 2000.

He said what was originally provided for in the Telegraph Act that applied to telephones was extended to computers under the IT Act with modernisation.

“Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the order nowhere mentioned “national security” which means the agencies can intercept anyone’s data at will.

“An undeclared Emergency has taken its final shape. The central agencies have been let loose…,” he said in the Upper House.

Sharma said that the move would make the country a “police state” and asserted that it was “unacceptable”.

As the issue created a storm, the Home Ministry, in a statement, clarified that the notification “does not confer any new powers” and “every individual case will continue to require prior approval” of the Ministry and the state government.

“Every individual case will continue to require prior approval of Home Ministry or state government. MHA has not delegated its powers to any law enforcement or security agency,” said the statement.

Dismissing the Centre’s defence, the Congress demanded to know as to what was the threat to the nation behind giving a “blanket authority” to the central agencies to snoop on all computers.

Taking to Twitter, Congress President Rahul Gandhi called Modi an “insecure dictator”.

“Converting India into a police state isn’t going to solve your problems, Modi ji. It’s only going to prove to over 1 billion Indians what an insecure dictator you really are,” said Gandhi. (IANS)