Snooping order: Supreme Court issues notice to MHA

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on a set of pleas challenging an order, dated December 20, that named 10 agencies with the power to carry out surveillance.

Four separate Public Interest Litigations (PILs) alleged that the MHA violated Section 69 of the Information Technology Act and the right to privacy.

Petitioner Shreya Singhal challenged parts of Section 69 of the I-T Act as well as the government’s notification.

“We have challenged that order on the basis of the section itself being violative…both are violative of privacy as well as other fundamental rights,” Singhal told.

Advocate Amit Sahni, whose petition challenged only the December 20 order, said it gave sweeping powers and that safeguards in the IT Act had been violated.

‘Big Brother is here’

The opposition’s criticism of the order contained references to George Orwell and his dystopian novel 1984.

“Modi has used a simple government order to permit our national agencies to snoop on our communications,” said Asaduddin Owaisi, the MP from Hyderabad. “Who knew that this is what they meant when they said ‘ghar ghar Modi’. George Orwell’s Big Brother is here and welcome to 1984.”

“‘Big Brother Syndrome’ is truly embedded in NDA’s DNA!” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.

However, the December 20 order did not hand out new powers but merely listed agencies with the power to snoop.

The order authorised 10 police and intelligence agencies to “intercept, monitor and decrypt” information on any computer device in India.

THE MAIN TAKEAWAYS: The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Union Home Ministry on PILs challenging a December 20 order that listed agencies — like the Intelligence Bureau — with the power to carry out surveillance. The order was criticised by several opposition leaders.