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'Done in interest of national security': Govt defends MHA order on monitoring computers

The Opposition has alleged that the BJP govt is making the country a surveillance state.

'Done in interest of national security': Govt defends MHA order on monitoring computers
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NEW DELHI: Under Opposition attack, the BJP government on Friday defended its order on monitoring and intercepting any computer by central investigative and security agencies, saying that ''it was done in the interest of national security.''

Allaying Opposition's concerns over the Home Ministry's order giving snooping powers to the central agencies, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the MHA order was a mere repetition of an order of authorisation issued under rules framed during the Congress-led UPA regime in 2009.

Jaitley made these remarks while intervening in the Rajya Sabha amidst vociferous protests and slogan shouting by the Opposition members on the issue on Friday.

Jaitley also accused the Congress of playing with the security of the country and making "a mountain where even a molehill does not exist." 

"On December 20, the same order of authorisation was repeated that was existing since 2009," he said referring to Thursday's order of the Home Ministry that ten central security and intelligence agencies including the IB and RAW and Delhi Police can intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource under the Information and Technology Act, 2000.'

The FM also responded to remarks of Congress leader Anand Sharma made outside the House in which he had accused the government of making the country a surveillance state. 

"And what you are doing, Anand Sharma is making a mountain where even a molehill does not exist," FM Jaitley said.

The FM continued by saying that the NDA government has used the same rules which were made by the UPA government in 2009 for agencies concerning issues of national security. 

To this, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that he has a copy of the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs and added: "nowhere in the order national security has been mentioned". 

Jaitley replied that "It (national security) is mentioned in Section 69. And you are playing with the security of the country. That is what you have done just now."

Congress leader Sharma had alleged the BJP government was creating a ''surveillance state'' and its order was "an ultimate assault on the fundamental rights and Right to Privacy.

Replying to him, Jaitley said it would have been better if the Opposition had obtained all information before raising this issue.

"When senior members from Opposition raise an issue every word spoken by them has precious value and therefore they must know facts," Jaitley told the House amid the din.

The order from the Home Ministry authorises 10 Central agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to intercept, monitor, and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer. 

(With Agency Inputs)