Hyderabad: Stating that Home Ministry’s order to authorise 10 central agencies to intercept “any information” on computers is a direct assault on civil liberties, in general, and fundamental right to privacy of citizens, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu Saturday said that giving such sweeping powers to central agencies is extremely dangerous.
Naidu said, “Sweeping powers given to central agencies to snoop phone calls and computers without any checks is extremely dangerous. This step is a direct assault on civil liberties in a general and fundamental right to privacy of citizens, in particular, guaranteed by Indian constitution.”
The Centre, however, on Friday defended the move asserting that it was done for national security. According to the order signed by Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba on Thursday, 10 central agencies can now “intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer”.
The 10 agencies given the sweeping powers in the government order are the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and the Delhi Police Commissioner.
Citing the threat of radicalisation to the country from Islamic State and Pakistan’s ISI through the internet, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government respects people’s privacy and democracy but will not compromise on national security.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Anand Sharma said the order was against the right to privacy, which was a fundamental right. “The government has done it by stealth and we collectively oppose it. This gives unlimited powers to all these agencies to monitor every information that interests them and complete surveillance which is unacceptable in a democracy,” he said.
Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav termed the order unconstitutional and said the present government should refrain from making such moves with just a few months left for the general elections. “This government has only a few months left and it should not dig potholes for itself as a new government will be installed in the centre soon,” he said.
TMC’s Sukhendu Sekhar Roy said the move was ‘draconian while RJD’s Manoj Jha said that it was a cause of concern for not just parliamentarians, but for every Indian. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury voiced his opposition on Twitter.
The Congress, the CPI(M), the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress spoke out against the order.