A political row over the Ministry of Home Affairs’ latest notification authorising 10 central agencies to intercept “any information” on computers erupted on Friday with opposition parties terming the order as unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights. Accusing the Centre of snooping on citizens, political leaders attacked the Centre and alleged that the country was turning into a surveillance state under the Narendra Modi government.
The order authorises the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, 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 information stored on any computer device.
Taking to Twitter, Congress lashed out at the government over its “desperation for information”. “From Modi Sarkar to stalker sarkar, clearly the string of losses has left the BJP government desperate for information,” the party posted on the micro-blogging site.
From Modi Sarkar to Stalker Sarkar, clearly the string of losses has left the BJP govt. desperate for information. https://t.co/1Q004d66bu
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 21, 2018
Veteran Congress leader P Chidambaram also condemned the order which, he claimed, is applicable in an “Orwellian state”. “If anybody is going to monitor the computer, including your computer, that is the Orwellian state. George Orwell is around the corner. It is condemnable,” he said.
His party colleague Anand Sharma said the BJP government is converting India into a surveillance state through the order. “It is the ultimate assault on fundamental rights and the right to privacy. It is also in direct conflict with the Supreme Court judgement that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. The government has done it by strength we collectively oppose it,” Sharma told reporters with other opposition leaders by his side in the national capital.
Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the government was brazenly flouting privacy laws. “Modi Govt mocks and flouts Fundamental ‘Right to Privacy’ with brazen impunity! Having lost elections, now Modi Govt wants to scan/snoop YOUR computers? ‘Big Brother Syndrome’ is truly embedded in NDA’s DNA!” he said.
अबकी बार,निजता पर वार!
Modi Govt mocks & flouts Fundamental ‘Right to Privacy’ with brazen impunity!
Having lost elections,now Modi Govt wants to scan/snoop YOUR computers?
‘Big Brother Syndrome’ is truly embedded in NDA’s DNA!
जनता की जासूसी=मोदी सरकार की निन्दनीय प्रवृत्ति! pic.twitter.com/qCe1IocgY8
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) December 21, 2018
Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) also joined the chorus against the government’s move. SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav termed the order unconstitutional and said the present government should refrain from making such moves with just a few months left for the general elections.
“This government has only a few months left and it should not dig potholes for itself as a new government will be installed in the centre soon,” he said.
Blanket surveillance is bad in law
TMC’s Mamata Banerjee tweeted in Bangla, “I have come to know that Union Home Ministry has issued an order yesterday authorising 10 Central Agencies to carry out an interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.”
She added, “If it is for National Security, then only for that purpose Central Government already has the machinery. But, why all commoners will be affected? Public Opinion please.”
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted, “Why is every Indian being treated like a criminal? This order by a govt wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgement.”
Why is every Indian being treated like a criminal? This order by a govt wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgement. https://t.co/vJXs6aycP0
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) December 21, 2018
Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Manoj Jha said it was a cause for concern for not just parliamentarians, but for every Indian. “We are perpetually living in a surveillance state,” he said.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said, “We have the North Korean news channels and now we have the North Korean police state. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Given that the government has now authorised multiple agencies to snoop on the personal & official computers of the Hon’ble judges of the Supreme Court I hope the SC takes a long hard look at the legality of the order. #surveillancestate #emergency2pointzero.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) December 21, 2018