Following outrage over a Ministry of Home Affairs notification authorising 10 central agencies to intercept “any information” on computers, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Friday said the opposition is “making a mountain where a molehill does not exist.”
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha in response to Congress leader Anand Sharma over the order, Jaitley said: “On 20 December, same order of authorisation was repeated that was existing since 2009. You are making a mountain where a molehill does not exist.”
Jaitley clarified in Parliament on the powers granted to the 10 central agencies, citing the 2009 rules of interception formulated by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity).
Finance Minister @arunjaitley in parl clarifies on the powers granted to 10 central agencies to intercept computers, cites the 2009 rules of interception formulated by Meity. @IndianExpress https://t.co/Ls35G7D1Jy
— rahul tripathi (@rahultripathi) December 21, 2018
“The 2009 order issued by Meity says “competent authority may authorise any agency of the govt to intercept, monitor, decrypt information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer source for purposes the specified in sub section (1) of section 69 of IT act.”
As per the 2009 Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information Rules, directions for interception and monitor stored in any computer, can only be taken by an officer not below the rank of joint secretary in GOI, under unavoidable circumstances.
A political row erupted over the Ministry of Home Affairs’ latest notification 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-led government.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order enabling 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.
According to the notification, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies and failing to do will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.