Govt defends notification on intercepting computers

It said the statutory order dated 20 December 2018 has been issued in accordance with rules framed in 2009 and in "vogue since then" and it "does not confer any new powers".

The Government on Friday sought to downplay concerns over the notification granting powers to ten agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt messages on computer saying it does not confer any new powers, saying the Opposition was "making a mountain where even a molehill doesn't exist".

In Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hit back at Congress saying it was crying foul overpowers created by it when it was in power as Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that "undeclared Emergency has taken final shape" and "all federal agencies have been let loose".

Jaitley said the rules under which agencies will be authorised to intercept information were framed in 2009 when the UPA was in power. "So what you are doing Mr Anand Sharma (who also raised the issue) is making a mountain where even a molehill does not exist," he said.

To Azad, he said, "you must know this and as a Leader of Opposition your word is sacrosanct, so don't use it for a purpose where a power which you created, which is to be used in national security cases, now you are crying foul about that power." Azad responded that there was no mention of national security in the order.

As Opposition criticised the move with Congress president Rahul Gandhi saying the moved showed that "what an insecure dictator you (Modi) really are", an official statement said the entire process is subject to a "robust review mechanism" as in case of Telegraph Act.

"Every individual case will continue to require prior approval of Home ministry or state government. MHA has not delegated its powers to any law enforcement or security agency," it said. It said the statutory order dated 20 December, 2018 has been issued in accordance with rules framed in 2009 and in "vogue since then" and it "does not confer any new powers".

"Adequate safeguards are provided in the IT Act 2000. Similar provisions and procedures already exist in the Telegraph Act along with identical safeguards. The present notification is analogous to the authorization issued under the Telegraph Act," the statement said.

Each case has to be approved by the competent authority i.e. Union Home secretary and these powers are also available to the competent authority in the state governments, it said.

The statement also referred to Rule 22 of the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules 2009, which said all cases are to be placed before the review committee headed by Cabinet Secretary, which shall meet at least once in two months to review such cases. In case of state governments, such cases are reviewed by a committee headed by the Chief Secretary.

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Govt defends notification on intercepting computers

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