SC to hear PILs against govt ‘snoop­ing’ or­der UP en­coun­ters a se­ri­ous is­sue, needs de­tailed hear­ing, says SC

No­ti­fi­ca­tion A Vi­o­la­tion Of Right To Pri­vacy, Say Pe­ti­tion­ers Apex court de­fers hear­ing on PIL against cit­i­zen­ship bill

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION - Dhanan­jay.Ma­ha­p­a­tra @times­ Dhanan­jay.Ma­ha­p­a­tra @times­

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Mon­day en­ter­tained PILs chal­leng­ing the Cen­tre’s De­cem­ber 20 no­ti­fi­ca­tion au­tho­ris­ing 10 agen­cies, in­clud­ing the CBI, En­force­ment Direc­torate, IB and NIA, to in­ter­cept, mon­i­tor and de­crypt any in­for­ma­tion gen­er­ated, trans­mit­ted, re­ceived or stored in any com­puter re­source.

The pe­ti­tion­ers — Amit Sahni, Mahua Moitra, Shreya Sing­hal and M L Sharma — al­leged that the no­ti­fi­ca­tion, is­sued un­der Sec­tion 69 of the In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Act, was a tool for the gov­ern­ment to snoop on the pri­vacy of cit­i­zens and hence vi­o­lated the right to pri­vacy, which has been de­clared by the SC as part of right to life.

A bench of Chief Jus­tice Ran­jan Go­goi and Jus­tices Ashok Bhushan and San­jay K Kaul sought the Cen­tre’s re­sponse to the PILs. How­ever, when the pe­ti­tion­ers sought a stay on the De­cem­ber 20 no­ti­fi­ca­tion, the bench said it would con­sider pass­ing in­terim or­ders af­ter pe­rus­ing the Cen­tre’s re­sponse af­fi­davit.

The Cen­tre had rub­bished the charge of ‘snoop­ing’ through the no­ti­fi­ca­tion and said the power to nom­i­nate agen­cies ex­isted un­der Sec­tion 69 of the IT Act, a pro­vi­sion in­tro­duced by the UPA gov­ern­ment on De­cem­ber 22, 2008. The NDA gov­ern­ment had said the power to ‘in­ter­cept, mon­i­tor and de­crypt’ in­for­ma­tion from com­puter re­sources had been ex­ten­sively used by the UPA gov­ern­ment. With­out this pro­vi­sion, while ter­ror­ists would be free to use in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, the in­tel­li­gence and in­ves­ti­gat­ing agen­cies would be hand­i­capped, it had said in its de­fence.

Pe­ti­tioner Sahni in his PIL said Sec­tion 69 of the IT Act was amended in 2008 em­pow­er­ing the Cen­tre and state gov­ern­ments to is­sue such di­rec­tions “in the in­ter­est of sovereignty and in­tegrity of In­dia, de­fence of In­dia, se­cu­rity of state, friendly re­la­tions with for­eign states, or pre­vent­ing in­cite­ment to com­mis­sion of any cog­nis­able of­fence re­lat­ing to the above or for in­ves­ti­ga­tion of any of­fence”.

Sahni said no such rea­sons were given be­fore is­suance of the De­cem­ber 20 no­ti­fi­ca­tion, “mean­ing thereby that any­one’s com­puter could be put un­der sur­veil­lance”. New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Mon­day said en­counter killings of al­leged crim­i­nals in Ut­tar Pradesh was a “se­ri­ous is­sue” re­quir­ing de­tailed hear­ing even though the Yogi Adityanath gov­ern­ment claimed it had fol­lowed the pro­ce­dure laid down by the apex court while prob­ing each case of death.

A bench of CJI Ran­jan Go­goi and Jus­tices Ashok Bhushan and S K Kaul told pe­ti­tioner PUCL’s coun­sel San­jay Parikh and UP gov­ern­ment’s coun­sel Mukul Ro­hatgi that it had de­cided on a de­tailed hear­ing af­ter go­ing through the PIL and the re­sponse filed by the state gov­ern­ment. The bench posted the mat­ter for fur­ther hear­ing on Fe­bru­ary 12.

PUCL had brought to the court’s no­tice “in­ci­dents of mas­sive ad­min­is­tra­tive liq­ui­da­tions tak­ing place in UP in bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of rule of law, le­gal and con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tion avail­able to cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing right to life.”

The pe­ti­tion said, “Facts re­veal that over 1,100 en­coun­ters have taken place in the past year, wherein 49 per­sons were killed and 370 in­jured. Ac­cord­ing to the fig­ures given by UP to the NHRC, in these en­coun­ters, 45 per­sons died be­tween Jan­uary 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018.”

In its af­fi­davit, the UP gov­ern­ment had told the SC that 30 of 48 sus­pected crim­i­nals killed in the last one year be­longed to ma­jor­ity com­mu­nity and ac­cused the pe­ti­tion­ers of try­ing to give com­mu­nal colour to the en­coun­ters.

“In­ves­ti­ga­tions in 28 cases have been com­pleted and fi­nal re­ports filed in 19 cases have been ac­cepted by courts. Fur­ther, mag­is­te­rial in­quiry has been com­pleted in 33 cases and po­lice ac­tion has been found law­ful,” the state said. “An at­tempt is be­ing made to present dread­ful crim­i­nals as vic­tims by pub­lish­ing ver­sions of per­sons hav­ing sym­pa­thy with the de­ceased ac­cused per­sons and pre­par­ing un­ver­i­fied news re­ports based on such base­less and fab­ri­cated facts and posts on the in­ter­net,”it added. New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Mon­day de­ferred hear­ing on a PIL chal­leng­ing two no­ti­fi­ca­tions is­sued three years ago, which were the pre­cur­sor to the Cit­i­zen­ship (Amend­ment) Bill and were meant to stop ex­pul­sion of for­eign­ers who pro­fessed Hin­duism, Sikhism, Jain­ism and Bud­dhism.

A bench headed by CJI Ran­jan Go­goi told an NGO’s coun­sel, K N Chaud­hary, that it would be bet­ter if the pe­ti­tion­ers awaited the fate of the bill, which is pend­ing in Ra­jya Sabha. “If Ra­jya Sabha passes the bill, then the pe­ti­tioner has to chal­lenge the law,” the Chief Jus­tice said.

How­ever, Chaud­hary said the ex­ec­u­tive or­ders stopped ex­pul­sion of per­sons even af­ter the For­eign­ers Tri­bunal de­clared them as ‘for­eign­ers’. The bench replied, “Stop­ping ex­pul­sion of for­eign­ers be­long­ing to cer­tain spec­i­fied re­li­gious groups is not the same as grant­ing them cit­i­zen­ship.”

In its or­der, the bench said, “We are of the view that this mat­ter should re­main pend­ing and be taken up only af­ter the Cit­i­zen­ship Act Amend­ment Bill... reaches fi­nal­ity.”

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