The government has reportedly authorised 10 central agencies which will have the ability to access any computer in matters of national importance.
According to ANI, the 10 agencies which have been authorised will be able to intercept, monitor and decrypt any “information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.”
The agencies include the following — The Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, National Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation. Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
The authorisation has been given under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. It allows the government to direct any agency in the interest of the sovereignty, defence of India and security of the state among other reasons.
What does the MHA notification mean?
According to the order, the person who the computer belongs to will have to provide access and technical assistance to the aforementioned agencies. If they fail, there will be a punishment of up to seven years. Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba has issued the order.
This basically gives the 10 agencies mentioned in the notification, complete authority to snoop on any data on computers owned by individuals who are under the scanner of these agencies.
According to Section 69(1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000, central or state governments allow agencies to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource. As per the section, the government can direct any agency to do this if it finds it necessary 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.”
Backlash against the notification
The move hasn’t been received well. Telangana MP Asaduddin Owaisi criticised it and mocked BJP’s slogan “Ghar Ghar Modi.” “Modi has used a simple Government Order to permit our national agencies to snoop on our communications. Who knew that this is what they meant when they said ‘ghar ghar Modi,” he said in a tweet comparing the order to George Orwell’s 1984.
The former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah commented saying that the government was imitating North Korea.
Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India called the move unconstitutional.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel told ANI that this notification gives sweeping powers to agencies to snoop phone calls and computers without any checks and balances in place. “This is extremely worrisome. This is likely to be misused,” said Patel.