Centre to SC: Monitoring for legitimate state interest

Centre to SC: Monitoring for legitimate state interest

The Supreme Court. File photo

The Centre has defended before the Supreme Court its December 20, 2018 notification, allowing 10 agencies to monitor, intercept and decrypt personal computer of citizens, saying it was done with "legitimate state interest" without "infringing upon the right to privacy".

"There is no blanket permission to any agency for interception or monitoring or decryption as the authorised agencies still require permission from the competent authorities, i e Home Secretary in each case as per due process of law and justification for interception or monitoring or decryption," an affidavit by the Ministry of Home Affairs stated.

A batch of PILs has been filed challenging the validity of the notification issues under Section 69(1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.

The government, for its part, maintained that the use of power of interception contemplated under the law has brought several results in larger national interests in preventing terrorism, drug trafficking and busting of drug rackets.

“Grave threats to the country from terrorism, radicalisation, cross border terrorism, cyber crime, organised crime, drug cartels, cannot be understated or ignored and a strong and robust mechanism for timely and speedy collection of actionable intelligence including signal intelligence, is imperative to counter threats to national security,” it said.

"Section 69(2) of the Act mandatorily and statutorily requires providing of safeguards in exercise of powers," it added.

The exercise of power was regulated under the rules and standard operating procedure framed on May 19, 2011. A review committee headed by Cabinet Secretary is competent to reconsider each case of interception, it said.

Petitioner namely advocates M L Sharma, Amit Sahni, Shreya Singhal and others like TMC MLA Mahua Moitra and NGO 'Internet Freedom Foundation' claimed the notification would allow the government to carry on snooping on citizens in violation of the right to privacy.

On January 14, the court refused to issue stay the notification but sought a reply from the government.

10 agencies notified under the order are 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.