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Government authorises 10 central agencies to monitor any computer

The Union Government has authorised ten central intelligence, security and tax agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt all the data contained in any computer system. The move has set off a political storm with the opposition accusing the government of trying to create a surveillance state.

Dec 22, 2018 11:01 IST
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The Union Government has authorised ten central intelligence, security and tax agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt all the data contained in "any" computer system. The order was issued on December 20, 2018 by the 'cyber and information security' division of the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) under the authority of Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba.

The move has set off a political storm with the opposition accusing the government of trying to create a "surveillance state". The Union Government has, however, clarified that 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 authority, which can carry out such action.

Political Storm

The opposition parties slammed the new order as unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights and an attempt by the ruling government to convert India into a "surveillance state" by resorting to "snooping", inviting a sharp response from the ruling party.

In a strong defence of the government order, the ruling government said it is legal with adequate safeguards and in the interest of national security. The centre also rejected the opposition's charge of snooping. The MHA also issued a statement saying that the order was issued to prevent "any unauthorised use of powers"

The issue of notification also rocked the Rajya Sabha where Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that "undeclared Emergency has taken final shape" and "all federal agencies have been let loose".

The opposition parties, including the CPI(M), the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress, said they will collectively oppose the order.

New Order: Key Details

According to the order, the 10 central probe and snoop agencies are now empowered under the Information Technology (IT) Act for computer interception and analysis.

The agencies, according to the order, 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)".

The 10 agencies notified under the new order include 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, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police commissioner

However, the new order "does not confer any new powers" to any security or law enforcement agency.

Each case of computer interception, monitoring and decryption will have to be approved by the competent authority, which is the Union home secretary or the state government.

Benefits

The order is aimed at among other things ensuring that any interception, monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource is done in accordance with due process of law.

 

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