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MHA’s Authorisation for Interception of Data

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On 20 December 2018, Ministry of Home Affairs, under section 69 (1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act), read with rule 4 of the Information Technology ( Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, issued a notification authorising certain central 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 IT Act.


Petition before Supreme Court

Manohar Lal Sharma, on 24 December 2018, filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court of India, challenging the constitutional validity of the notification, stating that it was issued “to find political opponent, thinker and speaker to control entire country under dictatorship to win coming general election under an undisclosed emergency as well as slavery which cannot be permitted within the Constitution of India”. He argues that “blanket surveillance order must be tested against fundamental right to privacy”.


Case No. and TitleWP (Crl) No. 01/2019
Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India
PetitionerManohar Lal Sharma
RespondentsUnion of India through Ministry of Home Affairs

Sharma has, among other things, argued:

“Because impugned order has been issued to find political opponent, thinker and speaker to control entire country under dictatorship to win coming general election under an undisclosed emergency as well as slavery which cannot be permitted within the constitution of India (sic).”

“Because impugned order has been issued to find political opponent, thinker and speaker to control entire country under dictatorship to win coming general election under an undisclosed emergency as well as slavery which cannot be permitted within the constitution of India (sic).”

Important Petitions:

Case No. and TitleWP (C) No. 13/2019
Mahua Moitra v. Union of India & Anr.
PetitionerMahua Moitra
Respodnents1. Union of India, Secretary Cyber And Information Security Division, North Block.
2. Secretary (Legislative), Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India.
Case No. and TitleWP (C) No. 44/2019
Internet Freedom Foundation & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.
Petitioner1. Internet Freedom Foundation
2. Raman Jit Singh Chima
Respodnents1. Union of India (Dept. of Legal Affairs
2. Ministry of Home Affairs
3. MeitY
4. Ministry of Communications

Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), along with challenging the notification, has also prayed for the following:

(a) Issue a writ of Mandamus or any other appropriate writ, declaration, or order to declare Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 as ultra vires Articles 14, 19(1)(a), 19(1)(d), and 21 of the Constitution of India;
(b) Issue a writ of Mandamus or any other appropriate writ, declaration, or order to declare The Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009 as ultra vires Articles 14, 19(1)(a), 19(1)(d), and 21 of the Constitution of India;

IFF’s writ petition can be found here.

Other petitions include:

  • WP (Crl) No. 02/2019 – Amit Sahni v. Union of India
  • WP (C) No. 34 of 2019 – Shreya Singhal v. Union of India & Ors

HEARING


14 January 2019

The five writ petitions came for first hearing on 14 January 2019 before bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and Justices Ashok Bhushan and Sanjay Kishan Kaul.

Petitioners were represented by Mukul Rohatgi, Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi and KV Vishwanathan, senior counsel. ML Sharma appeared in person. After hearing the arguments by the counsel, Supreme Court issued notice in all the matters and sought response of the respondents in six weeks. Court, inter alia, directed:

Issue notice in all the writ petitions. Issue notice also on the prayer of interim relief/application(s) for stay, returnable in six weeks.

Court though declined to stay the notification, it ordered that “Interim prayer(s) will be considered after service of notice is complete.”


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