COIMBATORE: Activists have voiced concern over the government’s thoughtlessness on the right to privacy for all citizens, which might be an indicator of its willingness to employ mass-surveillance techniques employed by agencies akin to those employed by foreign governments in the UK and USA, such as the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the National Surveillance Agency (NSA).
Leaked documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden had revealed mass domestic surveillance being conducted on American and British citizens, and in some cases, foreign governments by the surveillance programmes in both countries.
According to D Nagasaila, from the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the right to privacy is crucial, since advancement in technology leads to increased concerns of our privacy being violated. She said that with the proliferation of the Internet and remote-surveillance technologies, there needed to be adequate safeguards to ensure that essential private data collected from citizens is not passed on to third parties. She also hoped that the State mechanism does not overreach its boundaries, and intrude into personal lives of its citizens.
She termed the Attorney General’s position on privacy to be ‘worrisome’, as it was his duty to advice the State on the constitutional framework which would best serve the interests of the people, and not act simply as an agent for the State.
Senior lawyer C Gnanabharathi, said that the government already possessed a large cache of surveillance material from its citizens. He also said that the right to privacy was a natural right, which needed to be recognised, as such, with ‘reasonable restrictions’, much like the other fundamental rights.
He said that privacy cannot be separated from the right to live, and must be interpreted appropriately.
Retired judges are also of the view that there needed to be mechanisms in place which curbed the power of the State and ensured that its citizens are protected. They said that the Apex Court must ensure that the government’s stand on the Right to Privacy does not go unchallenged.