Every individual case will continue to require prior approval of Home Ministry or state government and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has not delegated its powers to any law enforcement or security, the government on Friday clarified on its latest directive that empowers security, intelligence agencies for mass surveillance.
The notification does not confer any new powers and adequate safeguards are provided in the IT Act 2000, the clarification further stated.
It stated that similar provisions and procedures already exist in the Telegraph Act along with identical safeguards.
The response from the Government of India came in after it authorized select security and intelligence agencies for purposes of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.
The agencies empowered by the government in accordance with the Information Technology Act, 2000, include the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW) and Delhi's Commissioner of Police.
The order drew criticism from the opposition parties, which termed it as unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights.
However, the government clarified that the notification is analogous to the authorisation issued under the Telegraph Act. The entire process is also subject to a robust review mechanism as in case of Telegraph Act.
"This has been done in national security interest. It has been done under the law made by the Manmohan Singh government in 2009. Each case of interception and the decision is to be approved by the Union Home Secretary," Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told ANI.
The direction from the MHA came as a follow up to a 2009 notification, wherein the then UPA government had stated that no person shall carry out the interception, monitoring, or decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under sub-section (2) of section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, except by an order issued by the competent authority.
The clarification over the December 20 notification is a codification of the standard operating procedures issued by MHA on May 19, 2011, when P Chidambaram was the Home Minister.
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