A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court against the Narendra Modi government’s move to authorise 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any computer system. The petition filed by senior advocate Manohar Lal Sharma sought quashing of the December 20 order issued by the Union Home Ministry. According to the order signed by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, 10 central agencies have been granted sweeping powers of "interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer" under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The 10 agencies granted the snooping powers are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police commissioner.
In his petition, termed the government's snooping order "illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires to the law". He asked the court to proscribe the agencies from initiating any criminal proceedings, enquiry or investigation against anybody under the provisions of the IT Act based on the notification.
According to the government diktat, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies. Failing to do so will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.
The move triggered a massive controversy with Opposition parties led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi launching an all-out attack against the "stalker" Modi government. Criticising the move to authorise central agencies to snoop on any computer, Rahul Gandhi termed 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," the Congress president tweeted along with a link of News Nation story.
Several other Opposition parties, including the CPI(M), the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Trinamool Congress, said that they will collectively oppose the Narendra Modi government’s diktat issued on Thursday.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that the order to snoop on every citizen was in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines. “This order by a govt wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgment. Why is every Indian being treated like a criminal?” Yechuri asked.