A desperate gambit

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/23/2018 11:08:25 AM IST

 When the Ministry of Home Affairs through the union secretary on December 20, officially gave the go ahead to central probe agencies including commissioner of police Delhi to intercept, monitor, seize and decrypt any computer for the purpose of safeguarding national integrity and security; it caused huge uproar. From rights bodies, civil society groups and especially leaders of several opposition parties saw it as another blatant attempt to abuse power for political gain under the specious argument of national security. The rules have been notified by the government using the powers given to it by the IT Act 2000. The ten agencies authorised to intercept and probe include-Intelligence Bureau; Narcotics Control Bureau; Enforcement Directorate; Central Board of Direct Taxes; Directorate of Revenue Intelligence; Central Bureau of Investigation; National Investigation Agency(NIA); Cabinet Secretariat (RAW); Directorate of Signal Intelligence (For service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi. There are several problems with the order and it is appropriate to raise concerns about it. It seems that the order enables government to circumvent more specific rules that allow phone tapping and digital under the Telegraph Act. It gives government broad provisions and that could lead to the 10 agencies misusing them. The issue has reignited the fears that the Modi government at the Centre wants to curb fundamental rights of every citizen by invoking harsh rules. It may be pointed out also, that the government does not need to invoke draconian laws to curb freedom and rights of the people; there are enough ‘murderous fringe elements’ or moral / cultural Talibans and lynching mobs who violate the trample upon the life and security of the ordinary citizens. However, the authorisation for snooping over the narrow restrictions of national security there must be , but its implications are so dangerous that it should be subject to the panoply of oversight. All these are very important issues which have to be weighed in order to bring a balance between competing rights of privacy and security. The rise of big data policing will soon become a civil rights issue for the digital age. The role of direct government surveillance, indirect third-party surveillance, and unintentional self-surveillance should be debated now before the web of digital tracking becomes too tangled. On the other hand and in the genuine interest of combating threat to national security, current debate is miscast, misleading and confused. Privacy is portrayed as an individual right, in opposition to a collective need for security. The Modi government has only brought adverse criticism upon itself, by taking the step to authorise snooping. This has led to critics and opposition parties to accuse the government of attempting to abuse of powers in authorising snooping just on the eve of the 2019 parliamentary elections. Who are to be snooped and whether it will actually help in protecting the national security is debatable. However, what is less important is that it has come at an inappropriate time to coincide with the humiliating defeats suffered by the BJP in the three states that went to the polls. When the debate is recast taking into account these misunderstandings, the bar for the justification of surveillance is raised and a new balance needs to be found, in political debate, in law, and in decision-making on the ground. 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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