Congress President Rahul Gandhi has called Prime Minister Narendra Modi an "insecure dictator" as the political heat over the central government's order on snooping of personal computers of citizens picks up pace. The Central government on Thursday said a total of 10 central agencies are empowered under the Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, to intercept or snoop any personal computer in the name of national defence and security.
Talking about the latest order, Rahul Gandhi said such measures won't solve any problem for the government. "Converting India into a police state isn't going to solve your problems, Modi Ji. It's only going to prove to over 1 billion Indians, what an insecure dictator you really are," Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
Converting India into a police state isn't going to solve your problems, Modi Ji.
It's only going to prove to over 1 billion Indians, what an insecure dictator you really are. https://t.co/KJhvQqwIV7- Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) December 21, 2018
Delhi Chief Minister and APP convener Arvind Kejriwal called the Modi government rule an "undeclared emergency" and accused the government of crossing all limits to seek control of even ordinary citizens. "India has been under undeclared emergency since May 2014, now in its last couple of months Modi govt is crossing all limits by seeking control of even the citizens' computers. Can such curtailment of fundamental rights be tolerated in world's largest democracy," tweeted Kejriwal.
India has been under undeclared emergency since May 2014, now in its last couple of months Modi govt is crossing all limits by seeking control of even the citizens computers.
Can such curtailment of fundamental rights be tolerated in world's largest democracy?- Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 21, 2018
TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also said: "blanket surveillance is bad in law".
Congress leader Anand Sharma said the order was against the right to privacy, which was a fundamental right. "The government has done it by stealth and we collectively oppose it. This gives unlimited powers to all these agencies to monitor every information that interests them and complete surveillance which is unacceptable in a democracy," he said.
Former J&K CM Omar Abdullah said there was a need for the Supreme Court to look deep into the legality of the government order. "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."
Samajwadi Party's 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.
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," he said. Meanwhile, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley accused the Congress has got into the habit of speaking out first and understanding the issue only subsequently.
"The Information Technology Act has been in existence for almost two decades. Section 69 of the IT Act authorises a Central or a State Government in the interest of sovereignty, integrity and defence of India, security of State etc. (The Article 19(2) Conditions as mentioned in the Constitution) to direct a notified agency to intercept or monitor or decrypt an information stored in a computer resource. This provision is similar to the power contained in the Telegraph Act in relation to telephones," said the FM.
He added the UPA government had laid down a detailed procedure for this in the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009. "Rule 4 authorises the competent authority to name the agencies, which can undertake this exercise. There are safeguards, as prescribed by the Supreme Court, which are included in the rules. An interception or monitoring is only authorised under an specific approval of the Home Secretary. It can only be in cases which deal with the purposes mentioned in Section 69 of the Act. These are restrictions on which free speech can be curtailed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution," he said.
He said that these rules have been framed in 2009 by the UPA government only. "The rules required authorised agencies to be notified. In the absence of this authorisation, any police officer may start exercising the power. In fact, during UPA-II in a detailed debate in Parliament relating to a corporate lobbyist, the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram strongly defended this power of interception being given to taxation authorities," he said.
Edited by Manoj Sharma