New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the Ministry of Home Affair’s notification allowing ten agencies to monitor any computer resource. (Also read: Jaitley Defends Snooping Order)
Seeking the Centre’s reply in six weeks, the apex court says it will examine the issue. A PIL was filed earlier in the court challenging the Government’s December 20 notification.
According to the notification, 10 Central probe agencies were empowered under the Information Technology (IT) Act for computer interception and analysis, Home Ministry officials had said.
Following the furore over the notification, the Government had cried itself hoarse claiming it was just an old order of 2011. “There is no new law, no new rules, no new procedure, no new agency, no blanket powers, no blanket authorisation and it is the same law, same rule, same procedure and the same agencies,” a senior Home Ministry official was quoted as saying.
“There is no change even in a comma or a full stop in the existing rules and regulations,” the official had said to PTI.
The Opposition had accused the Centre of trying to create a “surveillance state” while the latter had said that the ten agencies mentioned in the notification were already empowered to intercept electronic communications since 2011.
While listing these agencies in the notification, the Home ministry had reiterated the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of 2011 which mandates that every such interception required prior approval of the competent authority — the Union Home Secretary or the state Home Secretary.
The Government has had to face the wrath of even its ally, the Shiv Sena, over the notification. Sena, which is an ally of the BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra, launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said that the move was not a sign of a real democracy but its “restlessness” to stay in power.
In an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna, the Sena said, “The Government’s move to snoop on computers and mobile phones is not a sign of a real democracy and freedom, but its restlessness to stay in power.”