Ten central agencies have been authorised by the centre to intercept information from any computer, a move that set off a political storm on Friday with the opposition accusing the government of trying to create a "surveillance state".
But the Centre said 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.
According to the order, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies. Failing to do so will invite a seven-year imprisonment and a fine.
The central agencies authorised by the government are Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (for service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, Northeast and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
The government has authorised 10 government agencies to intercept. Monitor or decrypt "any information" in "any computer" according to the notification, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource is bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies.
Narendra Taneja, spokesperson, BJP; N S Nappinai, cyber law specialist; Sanjay Jha spokesperson, Congress; Tathagata Satpathy, MP-Lok Sabha; ML Sharma former special director, CBI; Mahua Moitra, leader, TMC and Gopal Sankaranarayanan, advocate, discuss the issue and its implication on right to privacy.
It was just to make it clear that only these 10 central agencies can intercept information from any computer, said Taneja.
"There is nothing new in it. It is the same what was brought in by the Congress party," he said.
The truth is that if you look at the political intentions of the government you tend to get worried, Sanjay Jha said. "This is the same government that went to the Supreme Court and said that we don’t have a right to privacy as a fundamental right and the fact that we don’t even have a right to our bodies so that tells you that where this government is clearly coming from," he said.
N S Nappinai said, "As a citizen, as a practitioner, I wouldn’t want surveillance by the state. Is this order really creating a surveillance state or emphasising it or increasing the possibility of the surveillance state I don’t really think so. I think it is more about the interpretation of it and that interpretation is layered possibly to suite each person’s perception. My take on this is very simple that section 69 provision was already there."
Section 69 was amended in 2009 and rules were framed there under for interception and encryption etc. so it is not a new thing, said ML Sharma.
"This encryption of computer resource can be made only for five specific purposes – sovereignty and integrity of India, defense, security of states, Friendly relation for states, public order and prevention of crime. These are the only areas which can be targeted under this law. So some of the speakers were saying that your private conversation can be tapped, no it is not that,” Sharma said.