Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
1. Analyse the constitutional and legal safeguards in India with regard to state-led surveillance. Do you think they are adequate? (250 words)
Reference: The Hindu
Why the question:
The ‘Pegasus Project’ report says that over “300 verified Indian mobile telephone numbers, including those used by ministers, opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, businessmen, government officials, scientists, rights activists and others”, were targeted using spyware made by the Israeli firm, NSO Group.
Key Demand of the question:
Analyse the constitutional and legal safeguards in India with regard to state-led surveillance.
Analyze – When asked to analyse, you 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.
Structure of the answer:
Start with what you understand by State-led surveillance.
Discuss that notably, there are no provisions in existing laws that allow the government to hack the phones of any individual since the hacking of computer resources, including mobile phones and apps, is a criminal offence under the IT Act.
Explain the concerns in detail; against rights of citizens, Threat to press freedom, Weak protection for surveilled etc. Even the proposed personal data protection law fails to consider surveillance while also providing wide exemptions to government authorities.
Vesting disproportionate surveillance power with the executive threatens the separation of powers of the government.
Given the secrecy involved in surveillance activities, the affected person is unable to show a breach of his/her rights. Thus, there is limited scope for the Supreme Court and High Courts to issue writs under Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution.
Conclude with a fair and balanced opinion and suggest what needs to be done.