Topic– Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
1) Critically analyze whether the existing surveillance framework in India needs to be revisited. (250 words)
Why this question
The government has recently brought out a notification which authorizes several government agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt online communications and data. Besides, there have been several instances like the facebook fiasco which point out the importance of privacy in the modern times. In this context it is essential to analyze the surveillance framework in India and deliberate upon it in detail.
Critically analyze-here we have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts, and present them as a whole in a summary.
Key demand of the question.
The question wants us to dig deep into the surveillance framework in India and bring out its salient aspects and issues arising out of it. Based on our discussion we have to form a personal opinion on the issue.
Structure of the answer
Introduction– write a few introductory lines about the growing surveillance tendencies on part of the states. E.g mention the recent notification authorising 10 Central agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt online communications and data etc.
- Discuss the surveillance framework in place in India today. E.g Two statutes control the field: telephone surveillance is sanctioned under the 1885 Telegraph Act (and its rules), while electronic surveillance is authorised under the 2000 Information Technology Act (and its rules); the procedural structure in both cases is broadly similar, and flows from a 1997 Supreme Court judgment: surveillance requests have to be signed off by an official who is at least at the level of a Joint Secretary etc.
- Discuss the problems with the present regime. E.g First, it is bureaucratised. Decisions about surveillance are taken by the executive branch (including the review process), with no parliamentary or judicial supervision; Second, the surveillance regime is vague and ambiguous. Under Section 69 of the IT Act, the grounds of surveillance have been simply lifted from Article 19(2) of the Constitution, and pasted into the law; the regime is opaque. There is almost no information available about the bases on which surveillance decisions are taken, and how the legal standards are applied etc.
Conclusion– based on your discussion, form a fair and a balanced conclusion on the given issue. E.g Any impingement upon the right to privacy must be proportionate. One of the factors of the proportionality standard is that the government’s action must be the least restrictive method by which a state goal is to be realised.