India’s Surveillance Laws, Then and Now: Has Anything Changed?

tele_mainThe government’s 20 December 2018 notification which formalises amendments introduced to the Information Tax (IT) Act in 2008 to allow central agencies ranging from the Intelligence Bureau to the Cabinet Secretariat to intercept, monitor and decrypt “any information” from any computer resource, is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court. The amended IT Act  allowed such a provision if the “sovereignty or integrity of India” was ever impinged upon. Petitioners against this notification consider it to be a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, which states that a person’s individual freedoms cannot be infringed upon.

Historically, snooping in India has been justified under the purview of maintaining  “national security.” Even before the internet had arrived, the Indian government was intercepting communications under colonial era laws that had been retained post independence.

This reading list looks at a series of articles on the ethics and legality of wiretapping, written by A G Noorani from the 1980s. Specifically, these articles discuss the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Indian Post Office Act,1889 both of which allow the state to intercept private communication.

Read the full article in Economic & Political Weekly