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Mamata Banerjee Demands Withdrawal of Surveillance Order, Says It Can be Vindictively Used Against Many

"From the Belur Math to churches, to gurudwara and corporates, it can be applied anywhere.

Kolkata, Dec 21 (PTI) Questioning the Centre’s move to authorise 10 central agencies to intercept “any information” on computers, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday demanded immediate withdrawal of the surveillance notification.

In an order on Thursday, the Union Home Ministry authorised 10 central agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer”.

Banerjee also rejected Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s claim that the power of surveillance existed during the United Progressive Alliance regime.

“This notification needs to be withdrawn immediately. We seek public opinion on the Centre’s surveillance order,” she said while inaugurating the 10-day Christmas Festival at Park Street here.

After initially issuing the order, the Centre issued a fresh clarification Friday evening that such measures will be taken with prior permission of individuals, she said, also ruling the Trinamool Congress supremo.

“I don’t understand what they (Centre) want to do, what they want to say. I don’t depend on such clarifications without any new circular. We want this notification to be withdrawn forthwith,” Banerjee said.

She expressed apprehension that the order can be “purposely, vindictively used against students, individuals as well as against institutions. From the Belur Math to churches, to gurudwara and corporates, it can be applied anywhere”.

The Belur Math is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.

Denying Jaitley’s claims that similar notifications were brought 10 years back, Banerjee said, “I have crosschecked. So far, as my understanding goes, in 2009 a notification had referred to special circumstances during sudden outbreak of law and order situations. But this time it is a blanket order.”

Clarifying the order Friday, Jaitley tweeted that such a power existed and was used during the UPA Rule. “How else will terrorists who use technology extensively be traced? Otherwise the terrorists will use IT, but the intelligence and investigating agencies will be crippled.”

“There is no general snooping order. The power to intercept in the interest of national security and public order already exists in law. This is only an order as to who are the authorised agencies,” he said in the tweet.

Banerjee recalled that she had protested using personal details on Aadhaar card and finally the Supreme Court had come up with a privacy order.

“What a regime we are living in? Having no freedom and privacy. A regime which is doing whatever it wants,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Banerjee had tweeted, “I have come to know that the Union Home Ministry has issued an order yesterday authorising 10 central agencies to carry out interception, monitoring and decryption of any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource.”

“If it is for National Security, then only for that purpose central government already has the machinery. But, why all commoners will be affected? Public Opinion please…,” she said.

The opposition parties led by the Congress slammed the order as unconstitutional, undemocratic and an assault on fundamental rights and an attempt by the BJP government to convert India into a “surveillance state” by resorting to “snooping”, inviting a sharp response from the ruling party.

Also read: Hope SC Takes Long, Hard Look at Modi Govt’s Order Giving Snooping Powers to Agencies: Omar Abdullah

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