A political storm over the Ministry of Home Affairs’ notification empowering 10 central agencies to intercept “any information” on computers erupted on Friday. The opposition parties unanimously condemned the move and termed the order as unconstitutional, undemocratic and a direct assault on fundamental rights.
Accusing the Centre of spying on citizens, leaders across the parties attacked the Centre’s latest move and alleged that the country was turning into a surveillance state under the Narendra Modi government.
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The order authorises the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence and Commissioner of Police, Delhi to intercept information stored on any computer device.
Congress, lashing out at the government, tweeted “From Modi Sarkar to stalker Sarkar, clearly the string of losses has left the BJP government desperate for information.”
The senior Congress leader P Chidambaram also condemned the order saying it is applicable in an “Orwellian state”. He said “If anybody is going to monitor the computer, including your computer, that is the Orwellian state. George Orwell is around the corner. It is condemnable.”
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Speaking to reporters, with other opposition leaders by his side in the capital, Anand Sharma told “It is the ultimate assault on fundamental rights and the right to privacy. It is also in direct conflict with the Supreme Court judgement that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. The government has done it by strength we collectively oppose it.”
Powerful regional parties like Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) also joined the chorus against the government’s move. SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav termed the order unconstitutional and said the present government should refrain from making such moves with just a few months left for the general elections.
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TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee tweeted in Bangla, “If it is for National Security, then only for that purpose Central Government already has the machinery. But, why all commoners will be affected? Public Opinion please.” CPI (M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted, “Why is every Indian being treated like a criminal? This order by a govt wanting to snoop on every citizen is unconstitutional and in breach of the telephone tapping guidelines, the Privacy Judgement and the Aadhaar judgement.”
Rashtriya Janata Dal Spokesman Manoj Jha said it was a cause for concern for not just parliamentarians, but for every Indian. “We are perpetually living in a surveillance state,” he said. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said, “We have the North Korean news channels and now we have the North Korean police state. Imitation, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.”