Every Computer Is Now Under Government Watch; MHA Issues Notice

New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs has released an order authorising security and intelligence agencies for purposes of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the Information Technology Act.

“Not just calls or emails, but any data found on a computer can be intercepted. The agencies will also have powers to seize the devices,” reported NDTV.

The order of MHA stated, “In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) of section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000) read with rule 4 of the Information Technology ( Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, the Competent Authority hereby authorises the following Security and Intelligence Agencies for the purposes of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the said Act.”

The ten agencies listed in the Ministry order are: (i) Intelligence Bureau; (ii) Narcotics Control Bureau; (iii) Enforcement Directorate; (iv) Central Board of Direct Taxes; (v) Directorate of Revenue Intelligence; (vi) Central Bureau of Investigation; (vii) National Investigation Agency; (viii) Cabinet Secretariat (RAW); (ix) Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only); (x) Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

In response to the MHA orders, P Chidambaram said, ” I have not yet studied the matter, but if anybody is going to monitor computers then it is an Orwellian state (a condition that George Orwell identified as destructive for a free society).”

Congress’ Ahmed Patel said, “The sweeping powers given to the agencies to snoop phone calls and computers without any checks and balances is extremely worrisome. This is likely to be misused.”

Meanwhile, the MHA has clarified that no new powers have been conferred to any of the security or law enforcement agencies by the S.O dated December 20, 2018 and each case of interception, monitoring, decryption is to be approved by the competent authority i.e. Union Home secretary.

Responding to Congress leader Anand Sharma over MHA order allowing ten agencies to monitor any computer, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stated, “On December 20, same order of authorisation was repeated that was existing since 2009. You are making a mountain where a molehill does not exist.”

Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said, “This has been done in national security interest. It has been done under the law made by the Manmohan Singh govt in 2009.Each case of interception and the decision is to be approved Union Home Secretary.”