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MHA refuses to give reasons behind allowing intelligence agencies to access computer data

The Home Ministry has refused to disclose reasons for authorising 10 security and intelligence agencies to access information from any computer resource under the Information Technology Act, 2000, terming it "top secret" information.

PTI PTI
New Delhi Published on: February 03, 2019 19:54 IST
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Image Source : PTI

Representative Image

The Home Ministry has refused to disclose reasons for authorising 10 security and intelligence agencies to access information from any computer resource under the Information Technology Act, 2000, terming it "top secret" information.

In an RTI response to activist Venkatesh Nayak, the ministry has said the information is classified as "top secret" and it cannot be disclosed as it is exempted under Section 8(1)(a), 8(1)(g) and 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act. 

Nayak had sought photocopy of all official records that contain the written reasons for issuing the authorisation to the 10 security and intelligence agencies specified in the attached gazette notification as per the requirements of Section 69(1) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) among other pieces of related information.

Section 8(1)(a) exempts disclosure of information which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence.

The information which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes is exempted from disclosure under 8(1)(g) of the act.

Section 8(1)(h) exempts disclosure of information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.

"The CPIO has mechanically washed his hands of the responsibility of being transparent about the routine actions of government," Nayak said. 

"Further, I had not sought any information about any specific computer resource that was being intercepted by any of the 10 agencies listed in the December 2018 order. So the CPIO's action of invoking Sections 8(1)(g) and (h) is also misconceived," he said.

He said in one of queries he had asked, why these reasons to grant permission have not been disclosed as per the requirements of the RTI Act. 

"By holding that the query is in the form of a question and is not seeking information, the CPIO has committed another error...Even more shocking is the MHA's refusal to treat as a valid query the request for reasons for not complying with the duty of proactive disclosure of all relevant facts and reasons that underpin the order," he said.

 
Through an order of December 2018, the MHA has authorised 10 intelligence organisations to to access information from any computer resource under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

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