What was a theoretical possibility became a reality on Friday as the government authorised 10 central agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, the Narcotics Control Bureau, the 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, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer in the country. The order to the effect was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on December 20.
The ministry has vested the authority on the agencies under Section 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Rule 4 of the Information Technology Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 which says that the central government can direct any agency after it is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so in the “interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above or for investigation of any offence.”
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 and failing to do will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.
According to an NDTV report, which quoted a senior bureacucrat, only data in motion could be intercepted earlier. “But now data revived, stored and generated can also be intercepted as powers of seizure have been given,” the bureaucrat told NDTV.
This action by the government has come under attack from opposition parties who alleged that the government was trying to create a ‘surveillance state’.
Reacting to the notification, Congress President Rahul Gandhi said, “Converting India into a police state isn’t going to solve your problems, Modi Ji. It’s only going to prove to over one billion Indians what an insecure dictator you really are.”