The Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday issued an order authorising 10 central agencies to monitor, intercept, and decrypt “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer”.
According to the order, the service provider, subscriber or person in charge of a computer resource will be bound to extend all technical assistance to the agencies – failing to do so will lead to imprisonment which may extend to seven years and a fine.
The agencies mentioned in the order are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (RAW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (for service areas of Jammu and Kashmir, North East and Assam) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
The order was issued under Section 69(1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. According to the section, the central government can direct any agency to intercept and monitor information after it is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in the “interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence”, reported Live Law.
The government had earlier authorised agencies to tap phone calls after receiving permission from the Home Secretary, according to NDTV. “This [new] order adds a new domain and stretches powers of law enforcement agencies and in present day it is needed,” an unidentified Home Ministry official said.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury questioned why every was “being treated like a criminal”. “This order by a govt wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgement,” he tweeted.