Snooping row: Prasad defends govt move; says adequate inbuilt safeguards in place

Defending the government’s move to authorize 10 central agencies to intercept information on computers, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad Friday asserted that the decision was taken in the interest of national security, with adequate safeguards in place.

Rejecting charges leveled by the opposition, IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that the Congress, which had imposed “emergency, and censorship”, should not talk about threat to democracy.

“As far as the opposition is concerned, particularly the Congress party, which imposed emergency, censorship, arrested leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and eminent editors like Kuldip Nayar, superseded judges…better not talk about democracy…,” he said.

The contentious order issued by Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday, authorizes 10 central agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer under existing provisions of the IT Act 2000.

Prasad said that the process was so far on ad-hoc basis and the entire exercise has now been properly defined, and the 10 agencies have been codified, underlining their accountability.

Seeking to allay concerns over sweeping powers being given to the agencies, Prasad said: “Larger issue that we want to say, is that from point of view of national security, this is important… so we have done it. But its mechanism is accountable, perceptible and transparent. There are defined agencies. Each case of interception, monitoring, decryption is to be approved by the competent authority, that is the union home secretary”.

The latest move is also being seen as means to curb misuse of social media, ahead of general election in 2019.

A source said if there were enough reasons to believe that such platforms were being misused, compromising national security, then the agencies can take action against errant intermediaries. In the past, there have been instances of rumor-mongering on social media platforms that have triggered mob-lynching incidents in different part of the country. In addition, digital platforms are also being used by terrorist organisations for recruitment purposes.

At present, Section 69 of the IT Act provides for interception, monitoring or decryption of any information generated, transmitted, stored in any computer resource in the interest of national security, and public order.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.

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