Joining the dots in the second coming of Pegasus (The Hindu, GS-2)

Joining the dots in the second coming of Pegasus (The Hindu, GS-2)

Context:- Pegasus spyware has made the news when it spied on more than a hundred people. University of Toronto’s from Researchers Citizen Lab called up some telephone numbers in our country and informed them that their WhatsApp chats were compromised. There are some stirrings to this story but the controversy died out quietly and disappeared from our public discourse mainly because of central government adamancy and people’s apathy.

How central government is doing suppression of freedom of speech:-

  • There are many instances of Internet shutdowns
  • Use of the sedition law on critics and opposition of the Government’s policies
  • Frequent use of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) 
  • Rushing crucial pieces of legislation affecting core sectors of our economy through the Houses of Parliament without due deliverance and without due debate.

What is the law in India about phone tapping?

  • Section 92 of the CrPC (for call records, etc) authorised interception and monitoring of communications.
  • Rule 419A of the Telegraph Rules.
  • Rules formed under Sections 69 and 69B of the IT Act.
  • It is unclear when the Telegraph Act applies and when the IT Act applies.

Why are we concerned about phone tapping? A brief history about misuse of phone tapping:-

  • In 2012 the Himachal Pradesh government ordered the police agencies to recover over a lakh phone conversations of over a thousand people.
  • Gujrat government was embroiled in a controversy dubbed “Snoopgate”, with phone recordings alleged to be of him speaking to the head of an anti­terrorism unit to conduct covert surveillance on a young architect and her family members without any legal basis.
  • The United Progressive Alliance government in 2009 swore in an affidavit in the Supreme Court that the CBDT had placed Niira Radia under surveillance due to fears of her being a foreign spy.
  • Even private sector is not beyond such as the Essar group, have also been shown to engage in illegal surveillance.

What are the supreme court judgement regarding phone tapping:-

  • Kharak Singh case:- Though S.C. Said that there is no right to privacy but it has increased the area of liberty under article 21.
  • Puttaswamy Judgement:- Right to privacy is a fundamental right. Everyone has R2P and if violated, a person can move to supreme court.

What is the issue in the phone tapping:-

  • Unbridled power with the state.
  • Violation of privacy.
  • A continuous surveillance by the state, thereby turning into an absolute state.

Way forward:-

  • Intelligence agencies must be backed by the law.
  • There must be a synthesis between privacy and surveillance.
  • Accountability of government agencies such as a parliamentary oversight on it.
  • The Judiciary can make the Government accountable in the current circumstances.
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