The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought a response from the Centre in a Public Interest Litigation seeking permanent halting of its surveillance projects, like CMS, NETRA and NATGRID, which, according to the PIL, enable the government authorities to intercept, store, analyse and retain telephone and internet communications data in bulk. The plea also seeks constituting of a permanent and independent oversight authority for authorisation and reviewing of the interception and monitoring orders or warrants issued under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the IT Act, 2000.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who represented the petitioner, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, before the Division Bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan, argued that the three systems allow the government “a 360-degree surveillance” of all citizens, including the judges.
The Central Monitoring System (CMS) is effectively like NSA’s PRISM system, which was exposed by Edward Snowden, submitted Bhushan before the court. National intelligence Grid (NATGRID) allows the agencies to get information from banks regarding account details and other transactions including travel plans, he added. Citing information received through the RTI Act, Bhushan submitted 7500-9000 permissions per month are being obtained for tapping telephones and intercepting telephones by the government authorities, adding the review committee meets only once in two months meaning they are supposed to examine 15,000-18,000 such requests in each meeting.
“We are entering into a regime which is called surveillance state where the government is effectively viewing everything that every individual sees through the internet,” he submitted further.
The PIL reads, “The Surveillance Projects allows the authorised central and state law enforcement agencies to intercept and monitor all and any Telecom and Internet Communications in bulk, leading to a mass illegal dragnet surveillance system by the state, thereby infringing the fundamental right to privacy of individuals and furthermore, exceeds the constitutional restrictions, principles, and adequate safeguards laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the landmark case of K.S. Puttaswamy & Ors. vs. Union of India…”.
The Division Bench issued notice to the Centre for January 7 and asked it to file a reply.
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