NEW DELHI: The Centre’s move to give 10 investigating agencies the power to intercept and monitor data on computers on Monday came under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, which allowed a batch of petitions against the Home Ministry’s order, which privacy activists claim amounts to snooping, and directed the government to file its reply within six weeks.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and S K Kaul issued a notice to the government on a plea challenging the notification authorising 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any computer system.
According to the December 20 notification, 10 agencies are empowered under the Information Technology Act for computer interception and analysis, officials said. Earlier, only the home ministry could scan calls and emails of people. The new order means any data in a computer can be intercepted. The agencies will also have powers to seize the devices.
The 10 agencies empowered under the new order are the Intelligence Bureau, the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence and the Delhi Police commissioner.
The petitions by lawyer Shreya Singhal, her co-petitioner and Trinamool Congress lawmaker Mahua Moitra, lawyer M L Sharma, Amit Sahni and others alleged that the government’s order is against the fundamental right to privacy and must be cancelled in the interest of justice. The petitioners also sought a direction prohibiting the agencies from initiating any criminal proceedings, inquiry or investigation against anybody under the provisions of the IT Act based on the notification.
They alleged that the notification gives the State the right to access every communication, computer and mobile and “to use it to protect political interest and object of the present executive political party”.
‘Govt order against Right to Privacy’
The petitions by lawyer Shreya Singhal, her co-petitioner and Trinamool Congress lawmaker Mahua Moitra, lawyer M L Sharma and others alleged that the government’s order is against the fundamental right to privacy and must be cancelled in the interest of justice