We can't pass order against US agency for snooping: SC

Published: 25th June 2013 05:45 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th June 2013 05:45 PM   |  A+A-


Supreme Court today said it cannot pass any order against the US government and its agencies for snooping on Internet data from India as it has no jurisdiction over them.

"Our jurisdiction is not over the entire world. American people and government is not covered under Article 21," a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi said.

The bench, however, said it would hear the PIL seeking to initiate action against Internet companies for allowing the foreign agency to access information if the petitioner convinced the court that Fundamental Rights of the people have been violated.

It asked the petitioner, a former Dean of Law Faculty of Delhi University Professor S N Singh, to come prepared on the aspect of violation of Fundamental Rights on June 28 when his PIL will be taken up.

In his plea, Singh has alleged that such large scale spying by the US authorities is detrimental to national security and urged the apex court to intervene in the matter.

He claimed Internet companies were sharing information with the foreign authority in "breach" of contract and violation of right to privacy.

"As per reports, nine US-based Internet companies operating in India through agreements signed with Indian users, shared 6.3 billion information/data with National Security Agency of US without express consent of Indian users.

"Such large scale spying by the USA authorities besides being against the privacy norms is also detrimental to national security," the petition, filed through advocate Virag Gupta, said.

Singh has submitted that it is a breach of national security as government's official communications have come under US surveillance as services of private Internet firms are being used by them.

Prof Singh sought directions to the Centre to "take urgent steps to safeguard the government's sensitive Internet communications" which are being kept in US servers and are "unlawfully intruded upon" by US Intelligence Agencies through US-based Internet companies under secret surveillance programme called PRISM.

In his petition, Singh has also sought directions restraining the government and its officials from using US-based Internet companies for official communication and demanded that all companies doing business in India must establish their servers here so that they can be regulated as per Indian laws.

"Sovereignty of nation is at stake because no penal action is being taken by the respondent (Centre) against the culprit Internet companies," he has said in his petition.

He also referred to a report by James R Clapper, Director of US National Intelligence, who had confirmed surveillance and acquisition of intelligence information of non-US citizens located outside the US as per provisions of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The Centre had on June 11 expressed surprise and concern over the snooping and said it will seek information and details from the US over reports that India was the fifth most tracked country by the American intelligence which used secret data-mining programme to monitor worldwide Internet data.


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