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In an order that could have wide ramifications, the government has authorised 10 Central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt all data contained in any computer system.

According to the order, which was passed by the cyber and information security division of the Union Home Ministry, 10 Central probe and intelligence agencies are now empowered under the Information Technology Act for computer interception and analysis.

The 10 agencies are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J&K, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police.

The agencies have been authorised “for the purpose of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the said Act (Section 69 of the IT Act, 2000)”, the order states.

The notification made it clear that any subscriber or service provider in charge of any computer resource is bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to these agencies. In case any person or entity refuses to cooperate, it “will face seven years in jail and a fine”.

Section 69 of the IT Act deals with the “power to issue directions for interception or monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource”. 

The Opposition termed the measure a violation of fundamental rights. Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel tweeted that the “sweeping powers given to agencies to snoop phone calls & computers without any checks and balances is extremely worrisome” and “likely to be misused”.

Congress leader Anand Sharma said the government is turning India into a surveillance state. “This is a serious development. Through this order, BJP is converting India into a surveillance state. The government has done it by stealth. We collectively oppose it. Right to privacy is a fundamental right. The order directly hits at this fundamental right,” he said.

Other parties such as the Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Trinamool Congress and Rashtriya Janata Dal also questioned the government’s decision.

Source: Manorama Yearbook