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Govt's surveillance norms trigger national debate

Govts surveillance norms trigger national debate
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New Delhi: The Centre has authorised 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt all data contained in "any" computer system, a move that set off a political storm on Friday, with the Opposition accusing the Government of trying to create a "surveillance state". The Opposition parties led by the Congress slammed the order as unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights and an attempt by the BJP government to convert India into a "surveillance state" by resorting to "snooping", inviting a sharp response from the ruling party.

Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told a press conference here on Friday, "We condemn this move to snoop on people of this country. We will oppose it and if needed we will fight it in the court also."

In a strong defence of the Government order, the BJP said that it is legal with adequate safeguards and in the interest of national security, dubbing the Opposition's criticism as a "text book case" of speaking without any homework. The Centre also rejected the Opposition's charge of snooping.

The 10 agencies notified under the new order are the IB, Narcotics Control Bureau, ED, CBDT, DRI, CBI, NIA, RAW, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, North East and Assam) and Delhi Police commissioner. The order was issued by the 'cyber and information security' division of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) under the authority of Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that converting India into a "police state" won't solve his problems and it only showed he is an 'insecure dictator'. As a controversy erupted, the MHA issued a statement, saying the order was issued to prevent "any unauthorised use of these powers".

The new order "does not confer any new powers" to any security or law enforcement agency, the statement said, adding "each case" of computer interception, monitoring and decryption is "to be approved by the competent authority, which is the Union home secretary". See P7

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