As its move to allow 10 agencies to intercept information on computers triggered a row, the government Friday said the authorisation was given under 2009 rules and dismissed opposition’s charge of snooping, saying they were playing with national security and “making a mountain where even a molehill doesn’t exist”.
The issue rocked Rajya Sabha as Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged that “undeclared Emergency has taken final shape” and “all federal agencies have been let loose”.
Union Minister Arun Jaitley hit back saying Congress was crying foul over powers created by it when it was in government.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said the issue is serious as it is related to fundamental rights and “India will become a police state” with such “sweeping powers” to agencies to intercept information.
Responding to the charge, Jaitley said it would have been better if the Opposition had obtained all information before raising this issue. He told the House that the rules under which agencies will be authorised to intercept information were framed in 2009 when the Congress-led UPA was in power.
“So what you are doing Mr Anand Sharma is making a mountain where even a molehill does not exist. “You must know this and as a leader of opposition your word is sacrosanct, so don’t use it for a purpose where a power which you created, which is to be used in national security cases, now you are crying foul about that power,” Jaitley said in the Upper House.
However, Azad retorted that there is no mention of national security in the order. “The BJP seems to think it has ownership rights over national security and it means nothing to us,” he said taking a swipe at the government.
To this, Jaitley said, “These are elementary things. It is an authorisation order. The provisions of national security are written in Article 69…. You are playing with the security of the country. That is what you have done just now”.
Since the Act has been in place these orders of authorisation are repeated from time to time, he said, adding that they can be used for interception in cases related to national security, disruption of public order, etc.
“When senior members from opposition raise an issue every word spoken by them has precious value and therefore they must know facts,” Jaitley told the House.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad questioned if the Congress does not want action against terrorists and those who play with national security.
Unhappy with the government’s response, the opposition members were on their feet raising slogans.
Congress Leader Anand Sharma said the issue raised by Azad is serious as it is related to fundamental rights. “Right to privacy of every citizen on which the Supreme Court has also given its decision is a fundamental right.
“Nine agencies and the Delhi Police have been given a sweeping power to intercept through an executive order. India will become a police state, this is not acceptable,” Sharma said.
The issue was also raised in Lok Sabha during Zero Hour with Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader N K Premachandran who alleged that the move is a violation of the fundamental rights.
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.