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