There has been 'zero change' in the UPA-era snooping policy that was notified by the Centre, a senior Home Ministry official told PTI on Monday. He added that no new agency has been authorised by the central government to intercept information from any computer.
The Home Ministry's statement comes following row over its December 20 notification with the opposition claiming that the government was trying to create a surveillance state.
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"There has been zero-change in the snooping policy. The rules for intercepting and monitoring computer data were framed in 2009 when the Congress-led UPA was in power and its new order only notified the designated agencies which can carry out such action," he said.
The Home Ministry official said no agency has been given blanket power to intercept information from any computer.
According to the official, the number of interception has come down "significantly" since 2014 even though the number of mobile phone connections in the country has gone up and crossed the 100-crore mark.
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"There has been huge proliferation of internet and phone services. Despite that, there has been a significant decline in the number of interceptions done by legally-authorised agencies," he said.
According to an RTI reply of 2013, there were about 7,500-9,000 orders for interceptions of phones and 300-500 for interceptions of emails being issued per month then by the central government.
The Home Ministry official said that ten agencies mentioned in the notification were already empowered to intercept electronic communications since 2011.
These agencies are the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (for Income Tax Department), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, Directorate of Signal Intelligence (in service areas of J-K, Northeast and Assam) and the Delhi Police.
According to the notification, these agencies have been authorised "for the purpose of interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the said Act (section 69 of the IT Act, 2000)".
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre over a plea challenging the government’s notification, which had authorised 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor and decrypt any computer system.
A PIL was earlier filed in the Supreme Court, against the notification issued by government on December 20.The plea, filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, termed the notification "illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires to the law".
He also sought to prohibit the agencies from initiating any criminal proceedings, enquiry or investigation against anybody under the provisions of the IT Act based on the notification.
The petition alleged that the notification gives the state the right to access every communication, computer and mobile and "to use it to protect political interest and object of the present executive political party".
The government's move set off a political storm with the opposition accusing the Centre of trying to create a "surveillance state".
However, the Central government said the rules for intercepting and monitoring computer data were framed in 2009 when the Congress-led UPA was in power and its new order only notified the designated authority which can carry out such action.
(With PTI inputs)