SC to hear PILs against govt’s ‘snoop­ing’ no­ti­fi­ca­tion

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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 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 the right to life.

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Abench 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 states 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”. But be­fore tak­ing up sur­veil­lance, as en­vis­aged un­der Sec­tion 69, the gov­ern­ment had to record rea­sons in writ­ing.

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