The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Narendra over the Union Home Ministry’s snooping order that empowered 10 agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any computer system. The top court has given six weeks to the Centre for the reply. Last year, a public interest litigation was filed against the Centre seeking to quash the snooping order. On December 20 last year, an order signed by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, 10 central agencies were granted sweeping powers of "interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer" under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The 10 agencies granted the snooping powers are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police commissioner.
The move triggered a massive controversy with Opposition parties led by Congress president Rahul Gandhi launching an all-out attack against the "stalker" Modi government. Criticising the move to authorise central agencies to snoop on any computer, Rahul Gandhi termed Modi an "insecure dictator".
In fact, there were reports that the Narendra Modi government was also looking to amend the Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, which will break the end-to-end encryption and empower the government agencies to access ‘unlawful’ content. According to an Indian Express report, there was a meeting held on Friday last week between government officials and the executives of major online giants such as Google, Twitter and WhatsApp among others. If the amendments are made, the online companies would be liable to reply to government within 72 hours.
The report said that the companies have been given time till January 7 to come up with their plan on government’s new request. “The draft rules have been shared with us, and we will issue a detailed analysis. But on the face of it, they seem to be contemplating pro-active censorship and breaking encryption with traceability. They will make the Internet a corporal environment damaging the fundamental rights of users,” Apar Gupta, lawyer and co-founder of The Internet Freedom Foundation was quoted as saying.