New Delhi, Jan 14 (PTI) There has been “zero-change” in the UPA-era snooping policy that was notified by the Centre recently, a senior Home Ministry official said Monday. Also Read - Coronavirus: Assam Reports First COVID-19 Case, 4-year-old Tests Positive in Jorhat

He said no new agency has been authorised by the central government to intercept information from any computer. Also Read - Assam Lecturer Arrested For 'Derogatory' FB Post Against PM, Sent To 4-day Judicial Custody

The assertion comes following a row over the Home Ministry’s December 20 notification with the opposition claiming that the government was trying to create a surveillance state. Also Read - Filmfare 2020 Guide: All You Need to Know About The 65th Filmfare Awards Happening in Assam Tonight

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, the Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the Centre and sought its response within six weeks time.

Asked about the PIL challenging the government’s move, the official said the ministry will inform the apex court the factual position in the matter.

“There has been zero-change in the snooping policy. The rules for intercepting and monitoring computer data were framed in 2009 when the Congress-led UPA was in power and its new order only notified the designated agencies which can carry out such action,” he said.

The Home Ministry official said no agency has been given blanket power to intercept information from any computer.

According to the official, the number of interception has come down “significantly” since 2014 even though the number of mobile phone connections in the country has gone up and crossed the 100-crore mark.

“There has been huge proliferation of internet and phone services. Despite that, there has been a significant decline in the number of interceptions done by legally-authorised agencies,” he said.

According to an RTI reply of 2013, there were about 7,500-9,000 orders for interceptions of phones and 300-500 for interceptions of emails being issued per month then by the central government.

The Home Ministry official said that ten agencies mentioned in the notification were already empowered to intercept electronic communications since 2011.

These agencies are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, Northeast and Assam) and the Delhi Police.

According to the notification, these agencies have been authorised “for the purpose of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the said Act (section 69 of the IT Act, 2000)”.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.