Opposition leaders slam MHA order giving snooping powers to investigative agencies
New Delhi, Dec 21 : Opposition parties led by the Congress on Friday opposed the government's move to authorise 10 Central agencies to intercept "any information" on computers, describing it as unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights.
The parties, including the CPI(M), the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress, said they will collectively oppose the Union Home Ministry's order issued on Thursday.
The BJP government, opposition leaders said, was converting the country into a surveillance state.
"From Modi Sarkar to stalker sarkar, clearly the string of losses has left the BJP government desperate for information," the Congress said on its official Twitter handle.
The order authorises 10 Central agencies such as 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”.
Several Congress leaders spoke out against the order.
"If anybody is going to monitor the computer, including your computer, that is the Orwellian state. George Orwell is around the corner. It is condemnable," said the party's leader P Chidambaram.
His party colleague Anand Sharma said the BJP government is converting India into a surveillance state through the order.
"It is the ultimate assault on fundamental rights and the right to privacy. It is also in direct conflict with the Supreme Court judgement that right to privacy is a fundamental right. The government has done it by strength we collectively oppose it," Sharma told reporters with other opposition leaders by his side.
He said it gives ultimate powers to state agencies to monitor every information and intercept it through surveillance, which is unacceptable.
The Congress' Randeep Surjewala said the government was brazenly flouting privacy laws.
"Modi Govt mocks and flouts Fundamental ‘Right to Privacy' with brazen impunity!
Having lost elections, now Modi Govt wants to scan/snoop YOUR computers? ‘Big Brother Syndrome' is truly embedded in NDA's DNA!" he said.
Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav also 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.
"This government has only a few months left and it should not dig potholes for itself as a new government will be installed in the centre soon," he said.
TMC chief Mamata Banerjee took to Twitter to criticise the order.
"I have come to know that Union Home Ministry has issued an order yesterday authorising 10 Central Agencies to carry out interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.
"If it is for National Security, then only for that purpose Central Government already has the machinery. But, why all commoners will be affected? Public Opinion please...", she tweeted.
Her party member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy labelled the move "draconian" and accused the government of tapping the phones of all opposition leaders.
"Now, they have legalised interception of phone calls and computers. This is a draconian move of the government," he said.
RJD's Manoj Jha said it was a cause of concern for not just parliamentarians, but for every Indian.
"We are perpetually living in a surveillance state," he said.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury voiced his opposition on Twitter.
"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.
AAP's Sanjay Singh also spoke out, saying that the order was "undemocratic and unconstitutional" and an attack on the right to privacy. He alleged that the order was a result of BJP's recent election losses.
According to the order, the subscriber or service provider or any person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies. Failing to do so will invite seven-year imprisonment and fine.
The agencies are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.