The Ministry of Home Affairs has clarified that its order dated December 20 authorising surveillance of computers by 10 agencies does not confer them with any new powers. The government has claimed that there is nothing new to the act and it is akin to The Telegraph act. Listing out pointers on the lawful monitoring, the MHA said in a statement that the recent order finds its basis in laws that already exist.
“No new powers have been conferred to any of the security or law enforcement agencies by the S.O. dated 20.12.2018. Notification has been issued to notify the ISPs, TSPs, Intermediaries etc. to codify the existing orders,” it said.
Also read| MHA surveillance diktat: Omar Abdullah hopes SC takes long, hard look at govt order
The MHA further clarified that each case of interception, monitoring, decryption is to be approved by Union Home secretary. “These powers are also available to the competent authority in the State governments as per IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules 2009,” it said.
As per rule 22 of the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules 2009, all such cases of interception or monitoring or decryption are to be placed before the review committee headed by Cabinet Secretary, which shall meet at least once in two months to review such cases. In case of state governments, such cases are reviewed by a committee headed by the Chief Secretary concerned, the statement further clarified.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley also said that the Act was actually brought by the UPA government in 2009. Since it has been in law since so long, the officials need to keep people posted about it through regular circulars. He said that the opposition is “trying to make a mountain out of a molehill”.
The BJP also took to its official Twitter handle to pass on information about the updated circular that reiterates how it is similar to the Telegraph Act. The act passed in 1885 mainly governs the use of wired and wireless technology. It allows the government of India to tap phones and monitor/ intercept communications. Numerous amendments have been passed since then following the updates in technology.
Meanwhile, Congress took a dig at the government saying that “When the BJP said “Ghar Ghar Modi”, we didn’t think they’d take it so seriously”. They also took it to Twitter to voice their unrest with the law.
As soon as the news broke out to the media, the BJP government received instant flak for taking data privacy so casually, something that is sacred in the European World.