NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Home Affairs, while replying to a question in the Lok Sabha on tapping of WhatsApp calls and messages, said that sections of the Information Technology Act and Indian Telegraph Act empower the government to lawfully intercept messages.
"Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 empowers the central government or a state government to intercept, monitor or decrypt or cause to be intercepted or monitored or decrypted, any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence," the MHA said.
"Section 5 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 empowers lawful interception of messages on the occurrence of public emergency or in the interest of public safety. This power of interception is to be exercised as per provisions of law, rules and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Each such case is approved by the Union Home Secretary in case of the central government and by the Home Secretary of the state concerned in case of a state government," it added.
The competent authority in the central government has authorised 10 agencies for this purpose - Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (for service areas of Jammu and Kashmir, North East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
The MHA also stated that any interception, monitoring or decryption of information from any computer resource can be done only by these authorised agencies as per the due process of law, and is subject to safeguards as provided in the rules and the SOP.
"There is no blanket permission to any agency for interception or monitoring or decryption and permission from competent authority is required, as per the due process of law and rules, in each case. Each case is also reviewed by a committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary in case of the central government and Chief Secretary of the state concerned in case of a state government," MHA said.