WHAT LAWS MAY HAVE BEEN VIOLATED?
Privacy: In the KS Puttaswamy judgment (August 2017), the Supreme Court recognised privacy as a fundamental right, including privacy of not just body but identity in the digital age.
Data Protection Bill: Former Supreme Court judge BN Srikrishna gave a comprehensive report on data protection, suggesting a draft Data Protection Bill in 2018. That bill is still pending before a Joint Parliamentary Committee. India does not have a data protection act in place.
- The Indian law, the Telegraph Act of 1885 and the Information Technology Act, 2000: These lay out rules and procedures for legitimate government surveillance and interception of communication. These acts cannot be invoked in the current situation.
The Indian Telegraph Act does not cover wire-tapping or hacking. Only the State is allowed to conduct surveillance, that too for specific reasons and for a short, specific period.
For both Acts a request for interception has to be sent by a senior police official to the Home Secretary. The final approval comes from a committee headed by the Chief Secretary of the State or the Cabinet Secretary at the Centre. With the Centre denying any “surveillance” this procedure did not take place.
- Advocate ML Sharma’s PIL before the Supreme Court talks about “serious attack on the country, judiciary”. He has brought in national security as an issue. If a foreign software is allowed to access phones of people critical to national security (including ministers under oath), then this part is valid.