An MHA notification enabled ten agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated from any computer. The issue reverberated in both Houses of the Parliament. Two PILS have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the government's order

A notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) a few days back enabling ten agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated from any computer stirred a major political storm. The Opposition parties, including Congress, criticised the notification in the Parliament, forcing adjournments and petitions to be filed in the Supreme Court.

Intelligence Bureau officials have, however, insisted that the order was passed not to intercept information on computers en masse, but to keep a check on terror activities, committed through the internet.

Intelligence sources say, "This order is not to intercept computers en masse. This is just to target those who threaten the security and the sovereignty of country."

"Kashmir-based terror groups, such as the one headed by Zakir Musa may use, for example, Telegram or WhatsApp for networking and spreading terror. The new rule will thus make these companies compulsorily cooperate with snooping agencies, attracting upto seven years of imprisonment, failing to do so," they add.

The MHA, in a gazette notification, on December 21 said, "In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) of section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000) read with rule 4 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, the Competent Authority hereby authorises the following Security and Intelligence Agencies for the purposes of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the said Act."

The agencies authorised under the order are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (for service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

Sources in the Intelligence Bureau say the notification does not mean the agencies can take over computers without any basis.

"A separate authorisation by the Home Secretary may be essential in any case," an official told India Today.

Under the Telegraph Act, there were provisions for agencies to tap phones of suspicious people, but no such provision was made under the IT Act. The order is passed to correct this anomaly, he said.

Sources say, for data decryption and detection, at least 20-25 requests are made to the Home Secretary in a day, rounding off to 600 a month.

It can also be noted here that India still does not have a data protection law to regulate the processing of information relating to individuals and to prohibit the disclosure or misuse of such information.


The issue reverberated in the Rajya Sabha as the Opposition alleged that "undeclared Emergency has taken final shape" and "all federal agencies have been let loose".

In response, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it would have been better had the Opposition obtained all information before raising this issue.

"So what you are doing is making a mountain where even a molehill does not exist," Jaitley said in the Upper House.

He added, "These are elementary things. It is an authorisation order. The provisions of national security are written in Article 69.... You are playing with the security of the country."

Jaitley told the House that the rules under which agencies will be authorised to intercept information were framed in 2009 when the Congress-led UPA was in power.

The issue was also raised in Lok Sabha during Zero Hour with Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) leader NK Premachandran who alleged that the move was a violation of the fundamental rights.


Two PILS have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the government's order.

The top court on December 24 denied an early hearing on one PIL filed against the snooping orders. The registrar denied an early hearing, saying there was no urgency in the case.

In his petition, advocate Manohar Lal Sharma had termed the government's snooping order as illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires to the law. He also sought to prohibit the ten police and intelligence agencies to initiate a case against anybody under the provisions of the IT Act.