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The Ministry of Home Affairs had, on December 20, issued an order allowing 10 government agencies to monitor information generated from any computer

The Supreme Court, on Monday (January 14), issued a notice to the Centre on a bunch of petitions that have challenged the Union home ministry’s controversial order of December 20 that allows 10 government agencies to “intercept, monitor and decrypt… information generated, transmitted or stored on any computer” in India.

Although the top court’s bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Ashok Bhushan and SK Kaul refused to grant an interim stay on the implementation of the controversial surveillance order, it directed the Centre to respond to the notice within six weeks.

At least four petitions have been moved before the Supreme Court challenging the snooping order on grounds that it violates an individual’s right to privacy and also the apex court’s landmark privacy verdict. Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma has sought that the notification be quashed and alleged that the government’s motive behind the order was “to find political opponent, thinker and speaker to control entire country under dictatorship to win coming general elections under an undisclosed emergency as well as slavery which cannot be permitted within the Constitution of India (sic)”.

A separate petition filed by advocate Amit Sahni says the directive issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs is “undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights of the citizens of India”.

It may be recalled that the notification was issued under Section 69(1) of the IT Act empowering the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, CBI, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi to carry out surveillance. The government has, however, maintained that it’s orders do not grant any new powers of snooping on private individuals and is in no way a violation of the Supreme Court’s verdict on privacy.

—India Legal Bureau

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