Monday 27 June 2011

Natgrid And NIA Have Become Obscure And Unconstitutional

Indian government is implementing various e-surveillance projects in clear violation of human rights and fundamental rights. Merely labeling a project as national security project does not make it one. The truth is that Natgrid project of India is still nebulous and unconstitutional. Exempting it from the applicability of RTI Act 2005 proves this point.

Accountability and transparency are two words that do not apply to Indian law enforcement and intelligence agencies. India has chosen to stick to the British legacy of non transparency. Whether it is laws like official secrets act, Indian telegraph act or the accountability of Indian law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Indian government has even surpassed the Britishers in this regard.

Instead of strengthening the transparency and Parliamentary scrutiny, India is further making these agencies more unaccountable and lawless. The right to information act 2005 (RTI Act 2005) is the sole transparency law of India that needs further amendments and strengthening. However, the proposed right to information rules 2010 instead of strengthening the RTI Act, 2005 took steps that are retrograde in nature.

Firstly, India amended the cyber law of India through the draconian information technology amendment act 2008 that empowered Indian government and its agencies with unconstitutional e-surveillance, internet censorship and website blocking powers. Subsequently, it made the RTI Act 2005 weaker and redundant.

Now Indian government has announced that Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), national investigation authority of India (NIA) and national intelligence grid (Natgrid) would be exempted from the applicability of RTI Act, 2005. The constitutional validity of national investigation agency act, 2008 (NIA 2008) is still doubtful and CBI and Natgrid are not governed by any law at all. Even the proposed central monitoring system of India is without any parliamentary oversight.

Whether it is CBI or Intelligence Agencies of India, none of them are presently Accountable to Parliament of India, informs Praveen Dalal, managing partner of New Delhi based ICT law firm Perry4Law and CEO of exclusive Human Rights Protection Centre for Cyberspace in India. This casts a doubt about the Impartiality and Transparency of these Agencies, suggests Dalal. Exempting these Agencies without any parallel “Parliamentary Oversight” is against the provisions of Indian Constitution, informs Dalal.

In these days the role of Indian Parliament has been reduced to almost nothing. Important laws are never passed and existing laws like the cyber law of India have been made e-surveillance instrumentality for Indian government and its agencies. The Parliament of India needs to take its legislative role seriously, at least now.