Surveillance And Censorship Under Digital India And Aadhaar Regimes

Praveen Dalal-Managing Partner Of Perry4Law And CEO Of PTLBThe recent big profile political drama that we witnessed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha regarding Aadhaar has once again reminded us how vulnerable we are in India when it comes to Civil Liberties, especially the Civil Liberties Protection in Cyberspace. Aadhaar Bill was imposed upon Indians by introducing it as a “Money Bill” and thereby shielding it from the “Rajya Sabha Scrutiny” and abdicating “Parliamentary Democracy”. The only thing more disturbing than this “Negative Precedent” is the inaction and silence on the part of Hon’Ble President of India and Supreme Court of India. There is no reason why Aadhaar Project has not been declared “Unconstitutional” by the Supreme Court of India so far. Further, there would be no reason why Supreme Court of India would not declare the Aadhaar Bill as Unconstitutional and Void now when the intentions of Indian Government are very clear.

In these turbulent times, it is imperative that we need “Public Discourses” and “Debates” rather than shunning the same. We have been managing few web resources where we discuss critical issues about Indian Politics. We have rejuvenated one such Blog with the new title Internet, Mobile And Social Media Censorship In India By Twitter, Facebook, Google, Etc. It is covering Censorship and E-Surveillance issues existing in India for long. With the changed Socio-Economic and Political situation in India, it is essential that critical debates about controversial issues like Digital India, Aadhaar, National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), Central Monitoring System (CMS), Internet Spy System Network And Traffic Analysis System (NETRA), E-Surveillance by Secret Wires, etc are discussed at this platform.

The worst scenario has been adopted by Narendra Modi Government by combining the Digital India and Aadhaar Projects. This has made Digital India the biggest Digital Panopticon of Human history. Similarly, the Government has clubbed Aadhaar with virtually everything ranging from Digital Locker, Passports, Birth and Marriage Certificates, Property dealings, Employment related issues, Public Distribution System (PDS), LPG, Scholarships, Domicile Certificate, Income Certificates, seeding with Bank accounts for Pensions, etc. This is despite the fact that Supreme Court of India has specifically ordered that Aadhaar is not mandatory for availing Public Services.

There is no second opinion that successive Indian Government(s) have been engaging in Illegal and Unconstitutional E-Surveillance. India is one of the few Countries where Phone Tapping is done without a “Court Warrant”. Further, with the introduction of Central Monitoring System of India, the scope for Judicial intervention has been absolutely ruled out. Cell Site Location based E-Surveillance is rampant in India with no regard to Privacy of those affected by the same. There is no Constitutional Lawful Interception Law in India as on date. To make the matter worst, we have no dedicated Privacy Law and Data Protection Laws (PDF) in India as on date. Any E-Surveillance Disclosure by companies like Vodafone is dumped inside the so called “Investigation Files” that are either not conducted at all or are not made public.

However, despite this some public spirited Citizens share their critical views and suggestions upon news websites, Blogs, Social Media platforms, etc. At this stage, Indian Government engages in “Censorship” of online contents in collaboration and active support of such Social Media websites. Technology Companies like Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, etc have been complying with Indian Government’s demands for Censorship and Data details form time to time. This is the reason why we have redesigned this Blog on Censorship and E-Surveillance. We have also opened dedicated page titled Censorship under Digital India that would report Censorship incidences by Social Media websites and Technology Companies from time to time. We are also managing the exclusive Techno Legal Centre Of Excellence For Protection Of Human Rights In Cyberspace (CEPHRC) that would support this Blog and other Public Interest oriented issues. Please visit us again for more details and articles on E-Surveillance and Censorship in India from time to time.