Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Centre on petitions challenging a rule that allows government agencies to intercept communication on all social platforms and electronic devices.
An interim petition to stay the government order would be taken up at the next hearing, which would be heard after six weeks.
On December 20, the government had issued a notification allowing 10 government agencies to monitor and decrypt any information stored in electronic device on grounds of internal security.
The order drew triggered a political firestorm and caused a ruckus in Rajya Sabha after the opposition flagged the order as “dangerous” and “likely to be misused”.
Apart from the IB, CBI and tax department, the other agencies empowered to intercept include Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, National Investigation Agency, Research and Analysis Wing and Delhi Police Commissioner. The armed forces’ Directorate of Signal Intelligence will also have this power for its operations in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and Assam.
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Officials however said the outrage over the order seems misplaced simply because these agencies already had this power under the Information Technology (IT) Act and the rules framed under the act, according to current and former government officials.
Still, the order may violate aspects of the privacy judgment given by the Supreme Court on August 23 last year, one expert said.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley maintained in Rajya Sabha that “authorised agencies have right under the law to intercept any attempt to subvert national security, defence, public order or integrity of India” but Congress president Rahul Gandhi seized the opportunity to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tweet that said, “Converting India into a police state isn’t going to solve your problems, Modi Ji. It’s only going to prove to over 1 billion Indians what an insecure dictator you really are.”