The Status of Electronic Surveillance Laws in India: An Overview (Part I)

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The following is the first in a series of two posts on the Electronic Surveillance laws in India, brought to us by Anurag Dasgupta, CNLU Patna.


After the wave of liberalisation and globalisation; the demographics of various countries have changed, (for better), such change also includes within itself the technological impetus, which many of the developing countries have not been able to provide with. Crimes are now not restricted to battery and assault, but includes with its ambit wiretapping also. Government too need not place its reliance only on the physical attendance of the police but can very well control or for that matter have surveillance by sitting in front of a computer screen. Hereby under these circumstances, reliance on any of the archetypal methods would spell apocalypse and hence a revamp of technology laws for any country is a must.

INDIA’S STAND ON SURVEILLANCE LAWS.

Being a developing country, India has brought several changes into its policies on Information Technology though lot more changes needs to be done still. With the growing IT sector, surveillance technologies has also been introduced such as internet surveillance, CCTV surveillance, telephone, e-mail id surveillance and probably in future new technologies will be introduced, which leaves us to the question whether current Indian legal framework has provisions as to surveillance and whether the privacy of individual in India is secured.[1] (as per the article of Abhay Nevagi and Associates, here)Wiretapping, bugging, and videotaping are amongst the most popular surveillance processes. In the recent past various new agencies have sprouted apart from the archetypal CBDT, NCB, RAW, NIA etc. (especially after the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, which had exposed the feeble midriff of the governmental agencies) that include[2]( as per the article of Abhay Nevagi and Associates, here): the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS), National Intelligence Grid, Unique Identification Authority of India (UID),Central Monitoring System (CMS) , Computer Emergency response Team(CERT-In),National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). Some of the functions include maintaining national repository of suspects, acting as nodal agency to co-ordinate activities within the Indian cyberspace community, maintaining database of core security agencies among others.

STATUTORY PROVISIONS AND ITS RAMIFICATIONS

Technology and society share an extremely symbiotic relationship which complement each other mutually. It is in furtherance of the statement that Indian statutes have mooted out various laws to regulate the surveillance mechanism.

The Section 69 of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 grants power to intercept, monitor, and decrypt any data or information stored on any computer resource for the purpose public safety and public order upon the government. Various aspects of electronic surveillance, right from the computer related offences, to identity theft, to violation of privacy and cyber terrorism among others have been recognised under the act. Then there is Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Blocking for access of Information by Public),2009, under which in the due interest of the sovereignty, defence, integrity etc. the government has been conferred with the power to block such information which are stored, received, generated, or transmitted by any such suspected computer source. The Information Technology (Procedure and safeguard for interception, monitoring and decryption of information) Rules, 2009, has provided the authority to Central Government such authority as to intercept, monitor or decrypt any information on any computer resource to any agency. Power has also been conferred upon the central and state government to intercept any message if the same happens to endanger public safety, under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.

[1] http://www.legalindia.in/surveillance-in-india-and-its-legalities> accessed 3rd January 2014

[2] ibid

 
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