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New Delhi Correspondent
India’s Supreme Court on Monday sought a reply from the federal government to petitions challenging the sweeping powers given to ten investigating agencies to intercept and monitor data on computers, including emails, that critics allege is against the right to privacy.
Allowing the petitions against the government’s order, the Supreme Court gave six weeks to the government to file its reply. The petitions by lawyer Shreya Singhal, Trinamool Congress lawmaker Mahua Moitra and others alleged that the government’s order is against the fundamental right to privacy and must be withdrawn in the interest of justice.
Ten federal probe agencies have been given the powers of “interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer,” according to a Home Ministry order signed by Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba in December last year.
In the past, the Home Ministry could intercept phone calls and emails of people. The new order gave that power under the Information Technology Act, 2010, to the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, CBI, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (Research and Analysis Wing), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and the Delhi Police Commissioner.
According to the Home Ministry notification, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource is bound to extend all facilities and technical help to the agencies if they ask for data. If not, they can face seven years in jail and a fine.
The Home Ministry has empowered the agencies to intercept information if they are satisfied that it is 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”.