In the midst of the debate on Privacy as a fundamental Right, the Aadhaar usage by Private Sector etc., the MHA order on Section 69 of ITA 2000/8 designating 10 agencies as accredited agencies which the Competent authority may use for its requirement if any has raised a serious debate on the role of Law Enforcement in India.
We expect Police, the CBI and NIA etc to protect us from petty crimes to terrorist activities. We also expect our defense forces to protect us even in internal security such as in Kashmir. As Citizens we say that we pay taxes and it is the duty of the Government to protect us. We donot hesitate to take the Police apart for their inability to solve Cyber Crimes as well as other crimes.
But have we ever wondered if we the people of India are also responsible for the inefficiency of our law enforcement also because we have an indequate understanding of the concept of Human Rights and the Constitution of India and mis-apply them frequently to tie up the efficiency of our law enforcement?
After the recent Terror module busting in Delhi, it is time for all of us to take a sincere hard look at what we are doing and take a New Year Resolution that “Cyber Security is our Paramount Fundamental Right” as a citizen of India.
Imagine the shock and damage that was caused when there were 13 explosions on March 12, 1993 or when hundreds were trapped, killed mercilessly on 26th November 2008 in 8 attacks resulting in death of atleast 166 people besides the terrorists themselves. Now if more than 100 mobile phones were recovered with many pipe bombs, at least one rocket launcher, many suicide vests etc in Delhi just before the next Republic Day, we shudder to think what might have happened if NIA had not been able to stop this major act of war against the country.
We are yet not sure if this was the only module that was preparing for the attack now or there were any others who may either go underground now or even attempt their own attack. We therefore cannot relax our vigil.
With most of our opposition political parties being sympathetic to the terrorists because all of them want to eliminate the Modi threat to their political existence, the terrorism in India will continue for some more time and will peak during the next election time. Had this terror act succeeded, these same political parties would have shouted that Modi is inefficient and should resign etc.
Considering that some of the political parties earlier conspired with terrorists like Ishrat Jahan to assassinate Mr Modi in Gujarat and cried when the Batla encounter took place, went to Pakistan and sought help for winning election against Mr Modi and kill him if possible, there is a common sense need for the intelligence agencies to monitor every activity of these politicians. If it is not being done, I would consider that the NIA is not doing its duty properly.
The problem with “We the People” is that we donot want the military to shoot down the Stone Pelters in Kashmir nor empower our intelligence agencies to monitor criminal activities. We donot mind rushing to Supreme Court for every administrative order of the Government even remotely connected with the word “Monitor”.
Even the Supreme Court has shown it can be naive enough to consider that an organization like UIDAI trying to scan published media reports by floating a tender is actually indulging in “Snooping”. Some of our senior advocates who are interested in destabilizing Governance in the country are intelligent enough to convince the Supreme Court to wrongly interpret media report scanning as “Snooping”. Because all of us respect the Supreme Court and donot want to point out its mistakes, errors of judgement continue to happen.
Even now, after the MHA issued a routine order on Section 69 of ITA 2000/8, a PIL has been lodged in the Supreme Court against the order. It is likely that the honourable Supreme Court will spend hours on discussing this proposal and arguments will be made that Mr Modi is an “Insecure dictator” and there is an “Undeclared emergency” etc. Whatever may be the final decision of the Court, the media will pick up these arguments and stray questions raised by judges during the trial and project as if the Supreme Court has agreed with the petitioners. The lie peddlers in the political dispensation will then keep repeating it hundred times and try to create a perception of a “Police State” being present in India all for winning the next elections so that the corruption can reign in the country once again.
Whatever else may happen or not, the law enforcement would be so demoralized that they would start hesitating to continue their routine policing duties.
In the Physical world, “Patrolling” is part of the law enforcement. We want our police to beat the streets and if they find any suspicious movements, stop and question people. Except that we want then to be polite, we are not opposed to this night patrolling. We want Police to ensure that searches are conducted for Narcotics or other illegal activities whenever there is a reasonable suspicion even if this means questioning a seemingly innocent person.
But when it comes to watching for suspicious movements in Cyber Space, suddenly we raise bogies of “Privacy” and try to prevent any reasonable monitoring activities.
This is not to support a blanket surveillance of citizens though in exceptional circumstances like Kashmir, even this is justified. We must appreciate that Sri Lanka was able to eliminate the LTTE only because they had a strict approach to security which is absent in India. We need to learn lessons from the Sri Lankan experience and ensure that the Urban Naxalites and Terror sympathizers who keep debating in TV are mercilessly stopped from spreading lies. Many of these debates are promoting terrorism and sedition and it is not enough if we take action against one Zakir Naik but the many Zakir naik clones who appear daily on our TV debates.
If Cyber Patrolling is a necessity, then patrolling the e-mail communications, the Messaging etc becomes inevitable.
We must understand that there needs to be an empowerment for such patrolling which is what Section 69 of ITA 2000/8 does. The recent MHA order restricts the use of powers conferred under Section 69 to the competent authority to only 10 agencies with several safeguards to ensure that there is accountability. If any of the law enforcement agencies donot follow the safeguards there is provision to punish them also.
It is completely unacceptable that the MHA order is being interpreted as the agencies being asked to start monitoring from tomorrow every computer in the country. This is not intended and even these agencies must appreciate that their powers only flow through a written order from the competent authority and not otherwise.
We may need to re-iterate these limitations but other than such re-iteration, there is no reason to panic and create fear that every citizen will be monitored and black mailed into voting for the ruling party during the next elections.
Now that the PIL will be before the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court is aware of the kind of terrorist threats that emerge from our general population, I expect that the Court will not interfere in curtailing the powers of the law enforcement by passing any adverse remark on the MHA order. If this happens, we must regret that even the Supreme Court has lost its sense of balance between “Rights of Citizens” and “Duties of the Law Enforcement”.
I firmly believe that “Right to Security” both in physical space and Cyber space is also “Right to Liberty and Right to peaceful living” and hence it cannot be subordinated to the false sense of Privacy.
The honourable Supreme Court need to realize this and also firmly assert it in its rejection of the petition against the MHA order.
We the People of India therefore urge the honorable Supreme Court to dismiss the PIL of Advocate M L Sharma questioning the MHA order even at the stage of its admission.
Our constitution does not say that we have to provide Right to Privacy over dead bodies. If we have the Right to Privacy it is only because we are alive and secure. Hence Security supersedes other so called fundamental rights when there is a conflict. In trying to strike a balance, the Court cannot interpret that Right to Privacy of suspected criminals is to be kept over and above the right to security of we the people.