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Intelligence agencies demand 'blanket exemption' from Right to Privacy Bill

Sajib Nandi

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Sajib Nandi

Reported by Aman Sharma in Economictimes.indiatimes.com on 17 Mar, 2015



Intelligence agencies have demanded a "blanket exemption" from the ambit of the Right to Privacy Bill, 2014, the legislation under the anvil after the Niira Radia episode. The proposed law will impose heavy costs and punishment for intrusion into a citizen's privacy or leakage of personal details.


The draft bill exempts security and intelligence agencies from the bill's ambit if the agencies can prove that their actions of compromising a citizen's privacy were in national interest.


However, ET has learnt that the Home Ministry has informed the Department of Personnel and Training piloting the bill that Intelligence agencies are not satisfied with the rider. "The Home Ministry has said that establishing in each case, that an action of the agencies was in the interest of integrity, security and sovereignty of the country is not only practically difficult but will lead to litigation. The Home Ministry hence wants blanket exemption for the agencies from the bill," a senior DoPT official told ET.


Section 65 of the Draft Right to Privacy Bill exempts action of intelligence and law enforcement agencies from investigative and adjudicative powers of a proposed Data Protection Authority but subjects such action to scrutiny of a court. Section 64 provides for initiating civil proceedings against any person, including an intelligence agency. The DoPT official said the Home Ministry says these provisions could mean intelligence agencies would be saddled with responsibility of defending themselves against all sorts of litigation and investigation.


"The Home Ministry has said this will expose the methods, capabilities and sources of intelligence agencies and will have a detrimental effect on the agency's functioning," the DoPT official said.


Further, the Home Ministry also has an issue with Section 56 of the draft act which imposes a penalty for obtaining personal data on a false pretext - it wants intelligence agencies and all law enforcement agencies to be exempt from this as well, the DoPT official added. It has also been mentioned by the Home Ministry that the provisions of the bill should apply only to Indian citizens and not all residents of India, implying that foreigners staying here temporarily can be put under surveillance freely for the purpose of national security.


The Right to Privacy Bill is being drafted after leading industrialist Ratan Tata approached the Supreme Court after leakage of the Niira Radia tapes, saying his privacy had been compromised by the leaks.

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