The Congress on Friday said it may move court against the Centre’s notification enabling 10 agencies to monitor, intercept and decrypt “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer”. Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the move of the Ministry of Home Affairs was a direct attack on the fundamental rights of the citizens and their right to privacy.
“We condemn this move to snoop on people of this country,” Singhvi told reporters. “We will oppose it and if needed we will fight it in the court also.”
According to the order, service providers, subscribers and those in charge of a computer resource will be bound to extend all technical assistance to the agencies, and failing to do so will lead to imprisonment. After the order led to severe criticism from several Opposition parties, the Centre clarified that it had not conferred any new powers on any central security or law enforcement agency. The notification issued on Thursday was in accordance with rules framed in 2009, the ministry said.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi had earlier in the day referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an “insecure dictator” in his criticism of the order. “Converting India into a police state isn’t going to solve your problems, Modi Ji,” Gandhi said in a tweet. “It’s only going to prove to over 1 billion Indians, what an insecure dictator you really are.”
Fellow party leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram said monitoring computers amounted to creating an “Orwellian state”, while Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury asked why everyone was “being treated like a criminal”.
‘Congress talks first and thinks later’: Arun Jaitley
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley accused the Congress of running an “ill-informed” campaign against the government on the order. He reiterated that no “snooping order” has been issued and that the Centre’s decision is in the interest of national security.
“The Congress Party has got into the habit of speaking out first and understanding the issue only subsequently,” Jaitley wrote in a Facebook post.
He cited Rule 4 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules 2009, which says that a competent authority may authorise a governmental agency to intercept, monitor or decrypt information in any computer. Every case will continue to require permission from the home secretary, he said. Jaitley added that these rules were framed in 2009 by the United Progressive Alliance government.
“But the Congress talks first and thinks later,” he said. “The power existed and was used during the UPA Government also. How else will terrorists who use technology extensively be traced? Otherwise, the terrorists will use IT [information technology], but the intelligence and investigative agencies will be crippled.”