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Thursday, August 06, 2020

House panel on IT discusses Aarogya Setu, ban on apps

Only eight of the 29 members of the committee attended the meeting due to travel restrictions related to Covid-19.

Written by Karishma Mehrotra | New Delhi | Published: July 15, 2020 2:46:03 am
aarogya setu app controversy, aarogya setu contact tracing app, coronavirus govt app aarogya setu, govt app data privacy The committee members heard presentations from the IT and Home Ministries regarding the Aarogya Setu application and the decision to ban 59 apps. (File)

During a meeting of the Standing Committee on Information Technology on Tuesday, the committee members heard presentations from the IT and Home Ministries regarding the Aarogya Setu application and the decision to ban 59 apps, it was learnt.

Only eight of the 29 members of the committee attended the meeting due to travel restrictions related to Covid-19.

During the 90-minute meeting, officials told the committee — chairman Shashi Tharoor is the only Opposition member in the panel comprising mostly BJP members — that the decision to ban the apps came after security agencies forwarded the list to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), it was learnt. The IT Ministry said at the meeting that they were simply an implementation agency.

One committee member, BJP’s Nishikant Dubey, said that the reasons behind the app ban cannot be elaborately discussed at the meeting. He referred to Rule 270 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha, which states that a parliamentary committee has the “power to send for persons, papers, and record” but with the disclaimer: “Provided further that Government may decline to produce a document on the ground that its disclosure would be prejudicial to the safety or interest of the State.”

The MP brought up the argument that MHA officials should not be called to the next meeting, which the committee largely agreed upon, The Indian Express has learnt.

Asked when the ministries may decide to lift the ban, the officials said that would depend on the security advice from various agencies, The Indian Express has learnt.

The MHA explained the process by which they gathered information about the mobile applications being a national threat. It was learnt that the committee members present, including the chairman, were largely satisfied with the issue of banning the apps.

Most BJP members largely agreed with the IT Ministry’s presentation on the ways Aarogya Setu app has helped citizens and assurances that the privacy of citizens was not being infringed.

The members also discussed new domestic software developers who are developing mobile applications that could replace Chinese ones. One particular application, CamScanner, came up as an application used by government entities like the Central Bureau of Investigation and state police.

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