New Delhi: The government has authorised 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt all the data contained in any computer system. The order was passed late night Thursday by the “cyber and information security” division of the union home ministry under the authority of home secretary Rajiv Gauba.
According to the order, 10 central probe and snoop agencies are now empowered under the Information Technology Act, 2000, for computer interception and analysis, officials said. The 10 agencies are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of Jammu and Kashmir, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police.
The agencies have been authorised “for the purpose of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the said Act (section 69 of the IT Act, 2000)”, the order states.
Section 69 of the IT Act deals with the “power to issue directions for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource”. According to an earlier order, the Union home secretary is also empowered to authorise or sanction the intelligence and security agencies for undertaking tapping and analysis of phone calls under the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act.
The opposition led by the Congress opposed the government’s move, calling it unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights. The BJP government, opposition leaders said, was converting the country into a surveillance state.
“From Modi Sarkar to stalker sarkar, clearly the string of losses has left the BJP government desperate for information,” the Congress said on its official Twitter handle.
“It is the ultimate assault on fundamental rights and the right to privacy. It is also in direct conflict with the Supreme Court judgement that right to privacy is a fundamental right. The government has done it by strength we collectively oppose it,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said. The order gives ultimate powers to state agencies for surveillance, which is unacceptable, he added.
“If anybody is going to monitor the computer, including your computer, that is the Orwellian state. George Orwell is around the corner. It is condemnable,” said Congress leader P. Chidambaram.
According to Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, the government was brazenly flouting India’s privacy laws. “Modi govt mocks and flouts Fundamental ‘Right to Privacy’ with brazen impunity! Having lost elections, now Modi govt wants to scan/snoop YOUR computers? ‘Big Brother Syndrome’ is truly embedded in NDA’s DNA!” he said.
“Blanket surveillance is bad in law,” West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Twitter.
“If it is for national security, then only for that purpose central government already has the machinery. But, why all commoners will be affected? Public opinion please...,” she tweeted.
Delhi chief minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted his opposition to the MHA order and said India has come under undeclared emergency.
“India has been under undeclared emergency since May 2014, now in its last couple of months Modi govt is crossing all limits by seeking control of even the citizens computers. Can such curtailment of fundamental rights be tolerated in world’s largest democracy?” he asked.