Digital India Must Address Civil Liberties And Cyber Security Issues Urgently

Praveen Dalal-Managing Partner Of Perry4Law And CEO Of PTLBThe Digital India project has been launched with extraordinary publicity and fanfare. Undoubtedly a project of this mega nature and importance deserves to be taken seriously but so must be its shortcomings and illegalities. While the benefits of Digital India have been portrayed elaborately yet its shortcomings have been either ignored or poorly put forward. As a result the digital India project is facing severe civil liberties and cyber security issues.

As has been rightly said, we all are systematically, continuously and vigorously brainwashed with daily doses of social media and other forms of publicity regarding the digital India project of Indian government. However, when it comes to critical analysis of the digital India project, they are severely censored in India. Even the facets of digital India like smart cities are suffering from violation of civil liberties issues and facing dangers of inadequate cyber security.

In this post, Praveen Dalal has wonderfully analysed the shortcomings of digital India project that must be removed by Indian government. He believes that digital India is biggest panopticon of human race the moment it is clubbed with e-surveillance tool named Aadhaar.

According to Dalal, Digital India is a very ambitious and significant project by Indian Government. However, it is also suffering from some “Shortcomings” that have still not been tackled properly. As a result the Digital India project is heading towards rough waters and may face many legal and technological challenges in the near future.

I would not discuss all these shortcomings in this article but am focusing on a particular problem that has taken the shape of a “Civil Liberties Violations Menace”. Yes I am talking about the E-Surveillance and Eavesdropping aspects of Indian Government projects like Central Monitoring System (CMS), National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid), Internet Spy System Network and Traffic Analysis System (NETRA), National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC), etc. To make the matter worst, Indian Government has been postponing Intelligence Agencies Reforms for many decades.

However, nothing can beat the draconian e-surveillance project named Aadhaar that has been designed to take a complete control over the digital lives of Indians. Surprisingly both the Indian Parliament and Supreme Court of India are watching helplessly while the Executive branch has usurped the “Legislative Powers” and literally mocked all sorts of Judicial Review.

Take the example of the interim order (PDF) issues by Supreme Court of India mandating that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for availing various public services. Although Central Government has informed the Supreme Court that Aadhaar is not mandatory for availing public services yet it has been made compulsory for almost all the digital and non digital services in India. As a result a wonderful project like Digital India would be heading for rough waters if our Judiciary is even “Remotely Sensitive” to Civil Liberties Violation issues.

This is also not the end of the story. When everything is clubbed with Aadhaar, it gives a complete control to our E-Surveillance loving Government over our digital and non digital lives. There is nothing left to claim Informational Privacy from our own Government. Privacy is our Human Right and not a Government charity and it should not be taken away with direct or indirect methods.

What is most anguishing is the “Deafening Silence” of the Parliament of India and Indian Supreme Court to resolve these issues. Why Parliament has abdicated its “Legislative Powers” in favour of the Executive and why Supreme Court has not taken the Executive stringently cannot be explained with any rationale explanation. However, in the absence of exercise of their “Constitutional Duties” we can safely conclude the “Separation of Powers” under the Indian Constitution has “ceased to exist” in the present and turbulent E-Surveillance era of India.