Govt. Creating 'Orwellian State': Opposition Slams Collection of Call Records of All Citizens as Absolute Transgression of Right to Privacy
NEW DELHI, MARCH 18— “A sinister pre-meditated orchestrated plot has been put in place in order to unleash a mass surveillance programme on the citizens of India, which is an absolute transgression of the Right to Privacy guaranteed by the Supreme Court in a 9-0 judgment,” said Congress on Wednesday while strongly condemning the central government move to collect Call Data Records (CDRs) of all citizens in certain states.
Address the media Congress spokesperson and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari said: “The reports which have emerged in the public space are extremely disturbing because the government has decided that it will carry out mass surveillance against the citizens of India.”
“We strongly condemn and we deprecate this assault on the fundamental freedom which have been provided in the Constitution and have been interpreted by the Supreme Court of India. An ‘Orwellian State’ is sought to be created and we would ask the government, we would hold the government to account that in violation and transgression of the rules, which were tightened by the then UPA government in 2013, with regard to obtaining call detail records, with regard to electronic interception of telephones and with regard to cyber communication. Why and how are these things being violated with impunity on a daily basis,” asked Tewari.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the central government has been seeking CDRs of all mobile subscribers in several states of the country for specific days over the past few months. Records have been sought for consumers in the circles of Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Kerala, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
“It has been happening for several months now but during January and February, we started seeing these mass requests,” the English daily quoted an unnamed senior executive of a telecom operator.
To a question about the clarification of the government that the move was for security concerns, the Congress leader Tewari said: “I am sorry national security cannot be the fig leaf in order to legitimize every crime. There is a laid down procedure and that laid down procedure prescribes that for reasons to be recorded in writing can call records be summoned. You cannot do it on blanket basis. It violates the rules under the Telegraph Act which were formulated post the PUCL Vs Union of India judgment delivered on the 18th December 1996….What the government has done is the monstrous crime. It is an illegality which has been committed. It is an assault on the fundamental rights of citizens.”
Trinamool Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra has also targeted the government over the issue.
“#ModiShah now forcing telco operators to provide call records of all users. What next Mr. Shah? Will you GoliMaro everyone whose conversations go against you? This is is illegal & unacceptable,” she tweeted.
Some journalists have also raised concern over the issue.
Ravi Nair tweeted: “In violation of user privacy guidelines mandated by the SC, Modi govt is seeking Call Data Records of all mobile subscribers across several states for specific days over the past few months including the areas of Delhi where many judges &bureaucrats reside.”
Telecom companies had red-flagged the issue in February.
On February 12, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), had red-flagged the issue in a complaint to Anshu Prakash, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications.