Amid the row over the government's move to authorise 10 central agencies to intercept information on computers, Congress president Rahul Gandhi described Prime Minister Narendra 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,” Gandhi tweeted.
Converting India into a police state isn’t going to solve your problems, Modi Ji.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 21, 2018
It’s only going to prove to over 1 billion Indians, what an insecure dictator you really are. https://t.co/KJhvQqwIV7
The controversial order issued by Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday, authorises 10 central agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer under existing provisions of the IT Act 2000.
Hitting Gandhi back, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah tweeted: “There were only 2 insecure dictators in the history of India. One imposed emergency and the other wanted unrestricted access to read letters of common citizens. Guess who were they @RahulGandhi ?”
There were only 2 insecure dictators in the history of India.— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 21, 2018
One imposed emergency and the other wanted unrestricted access to read letters of common citizens.
Guess who were they @RahulGandhi ?
Lashing out at the Congress counterpart, Shah added: “Yet again Rahul does fear-mongering and plays politics with national security. UPA put no barriers on unlawful surveillance. When Modi govt puts safeguards for citizens, Rahul cries conspiracy.”
Defending the move, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Friday asserted that the decision was taken in the interest of national security, with adequate safeguards in place.
Rejecting charges levelled by the opposition, IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that the Congress, which had imposed "emergency, and censorship", should not talk about threat to democracy.
"As far as the opposition is concerned, particularly the Congress party, which imposed emergency, censorship, arrested leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and eminent editors like Kuldip Nayar, superseded judges...better not talk about democracy...," he said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) clarified that no new powers have been conferred to any of the security or law enforcement to intercept, monitor and decrypt information stored in any computer, adding that each case of interception, monitoring, decryption is to be approved by the Union home secretary.
The MHA said: “Rule 4 of IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Info) Rules'09 provides that the authority may authorise a government agency to intercept, monitor or decrypt information generated, transmitted or stored in any computer for purpose specified in the Act.”
The latest move is also being seen as means to curb misuse of social media, ahead of general election in 2019.
A source said told news agency PTI that if there were enough reasons to believe that such platforms were being misused, compromising national security, then the agencies can take action against errant intermediaries. In the past, there have been instances of rumour-mongering on social media platforms that have triggered mob-lynching incidents in different part of the country. In addition, digital platforms are also being used by terrorist organisations for recruitment purposes.
At present, Section 69 of the IT Act provides for interception, monitoring or decryption of any information generated, transmitted, stored in any computer resource in the interest of national security, and public order.
(With PTI inputs)