Yesterday was a day when ignorance and politics took over the debate on the new MHA guidelines under Section 69 of ITA 2000. As expected, the Congress politicians opened the debate in the Parliament with the “Jupiter Escape Velocity” fame expert commented that “India is being converted into a Police State”. Several other politicians such as Sitaram Yechury, Asaduddin Owaisi, Omar Abdulla joined the line of political experts who declared that there is a need for Supreme Court to take a hard look. Towards the end of the day Congress appeared to pull back when they realized that Section 69 in its present form was actually passed into law by the Congress Government itself.
Though some sane voices did emerge from the Cyber Law experts, later in the day, the media as usual continued to bombard the sensational angle as if India has over night become a Police State. The young anchors talking like experts in Cyber Law referred to the Puttaswamy judgement and declared that Privacy is under threat.
In the professional arena, some sense prevailed except for a few Privacy passionate enthusiasts expressed their anguish that the law can be misused.
Behind the criticisms that prevailed all across the media it was evident that many of the commentators were realizing for the first time that there was a section called Section 69 in ITA 2008 and it provided for certain powers for interception etc.
The situation was similar to the moment in 2011 when after the passage of the rules under Section 43A, the IT professionals suddenly came to realize the existence of ITA 2000/8 which became a law on 17th October 2000 with the important amendments of 2008 becoming effective from 27th October 2009.
Perhaps this second awakening is good for the society since we need to understand and appreciate the nature of ITA 2000/8 which is an important legislation of the “Digital Society”. So far everybody was talking of “Digital India”, “Digital Disruption”, “Innovation” etc with complete abandonment of an awareness of the background law.
This debate on “Snooping” however absurd it is, will perhaps result in at least some of the politicians and professionals developing a better understanding.
In the discussions that ensued yesterday, following points have been raised.
- Timing: Why did the Government come up with this notification? Does it have anything to do with the forthcoming elections?
- Privacy: Does this notification affect the principles of Privacy as a Fundamental Right?
- Surveillance: Does this notification mean that the named 10 agencies will start snooping on 1 billion people from tomorrow?
- Oversight: Does such powers require a judicial oversight?
- Prior Debate: Was a public debate required before this notification was released?
Naavi had highlighted the sweeping powers that sections 69,69A and 69B provided to the state when the amendments were passed in 2008. Unfortunately, at that time no body took notice.
Then on 27th October 2009, the notification called “Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 was published. These guidelines had some ambiguities. This notification has in fact cleared some aspects of this notification which were difficult to interpret because of the inherent ambiguities. The MHA notification has therefore come as a relief as it sets dome doubts to rest.
I anticipate that the controversy on Section 69 would not die down. The next level of action would be when people like Prashant Bhushan, Indira Jaiswal and others would raise the issue in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is known to be vulnerable to succumb to media hype as it did in the case of Section 66A judgement and partially in the case of the Aadhaar judgement and arrive at incorrect interpretations. Hence we need to place on record our views so that the false propagandists donot hijack the debate.
We shall therefore explain the Section 69, the notification of October 27, 2009 and also answer some of the questions raised above in a series of articles that will follow.
We hope this will clarify the uncertainty that may prevail in the minds of the public. This is only an academic explanation of what ITA 2000/8 for those who want to debate the law.
This may not however satisfy the Politicians who want to any way blame the Government because they feel that they have a friendly media which will make any lie uttered 1000 times look like truth. We have to leave them revel in their imaginary world.
The Second Awakening… What is there in Rules of Oct 27, 2009 on Section 69?
The Second Awakening… What is Section 69?
Snooping and Section 69 of ITA 2000: Beyond Politics, Distrust and Passion..The second awakening
Agencies empowered under Sec 69. No Need to raise a false alarm