Modi government defends snooping order in Supreme Court

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Updated: March 2, 2019 7:27:21 AM

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre said that surveillance would be done only if securing information is not possible through other avenues and the messages intercepted would be deleted every six months unless the relevant information is required at a later stage.

SUPREME COURT, Home Secretary , snooping, Modi government, BJP, congress,According to the affidavit, the government had the power to keep a tab on people since 1885 under the Indian Telegraph Act and the provisions contained in Section 69 of the Information Technology Act 2000 have been in operation since 2009.

The Modi government on Friday defended its December 20, 2018, surveillance order that allowed 10 agencies to monitor, intercept and decrypt personal computer of citizens, saying it was done with “legitimate state interest” without “infringing upon the right to privacy” and would be employed only as a last resort.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre said that surveillance would be done only if securing information is not possible through other avenues and the messages intercepted would be deleted every six months unless the relevant information is required at a later stage.

Only select agencies have been granted the power to monitor citizens and tapping is done for a specified or precisely defined purpose — that too is done only in the State’s interest or in larger public interest, it said.

“There is no blanket permission to any agency for interception or monitoring or decryption as the authorised agencies still require permission from the competent authorities, i.e. Home Secretary in each case as per the due process of law and justification for interception or monitoring or decryption,” the ministry of home affairs said in its reply.

The ministry said that “grave threats to the country from terrorism, radicalisation, cross-border terrorism, cyber crime, organised crime, drug cartels cannot be understated or ignored…a strong and robust mechanism for a timely collection of actionable intelligence, including signal intelligence, is imperative to counter threats to national security”, it said, adding that “this is legitimate State interest”.
According to the affidavit, the government had the power to keep a tab on people since 1885 under the Indian Telegraph Act and the provisions contained in Section 69 of the Information Technology Act 2000 have been in operation since 2009.

The new order is an amendment of the earlier provisions as interception, decryption and monitoring of the people have now become more streamlined with only the 10 central agencies authorised to do so, it added. The affidavit stated that there are enough safeguards under the Act and the rules to ward off unwarranted invasion into the privacy of people.

The reply came on a batch of petitions challenging the December 20 notification which was criticised over privacy fears. The PILs had challenged the validity of the notification issued under Section 69(1) of the 2000 Act and Section 5(2) of the 1885 Act on the grounds that the notification would allow the government to carry on snooping on citizens.

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