The government has asked Union ministers to not carry mobile phones or smartphones to meetings of the Cabinet and Cabinet committees, apparently to prevent information leak as the issue of cyber threat grows around the world. An Office Memorandum issued by the Cabinet Secretariat on October 17 on the subject “Carrying smartphones/mobile phones inside meeting venues of Cabinet/Cabinet Committees” states, “It has been decided that smart phones/mobile phones will henceforth not be permitted inside the meeting venues of Cabinet/Cabinet Committees.”
The memo also says, “The undersigned has been directed to request Private Secretaries to the Members of the Council of Ministers to appropriately brief the Members in this regard.”
Speaking about the surgical strikes by the Army across the Line of Control in Kashmir, the Defence Minister had recently said, “During the operations, I kept my mobile phone away, just to ensure that if it is compromised, nobody eavesdrops on important conversations. I mostly switch off my phone during important meetings but one can even bug the battery of your phone and listen to your conversations.”
The Congress, meanwhile, criticised the government for issuing such a direction. Calling it a “dictatorial and fascist order”, Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar said, “This has happened for the first time. This is one more example that the RSS and BJP do not want any kind of transparency.”
With this move, India will join countries such as Britain and France that have taken similar decisions on different occasions for different reasons.
There were reports recently that United Kingdom’s PM Theresa May banned ministers from wearing Apple smartwatches in Cabinet meetings, as the government is concerned that the microphone in these watches could be hacked. In 2014, French President François Hollande imposed a ban on cellphones during Cabinet sessions.