Delhi HC seeks Centre’s stand over NETRA & NATGRID surveillance interfering with right to privacy

Shweta Tambade

An NGO had filed a PIL seeking termination of surveillance projects that gather and analyze personal data.

The Delhi High Court sought a response from the central government on a PIL which claimed that the rights of the citizens were ‘endangered’ by the implementation and operation of surveillance systems like CMS, Network Traffic Analysis (NETRA), and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID).

A Division Bench comprising Justices D N Patel and Prateek Jalan has issued notice to the Ministries of Home Affairs, Information Technology, Communications, and Law and Justice pursuing their opinion on the plea by the NGO and listed the matter for hearing on 7th January 2021.

NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) has argued that such surveillance systems permit Centre and state law enforcement agencies to obstruct and track all the telecommunications in bulk, which infringes the fundamental right to privacy of individuals.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, through whom the plea was filed, argued that under the present legal structure, there is an absence of an oversight mechanism to review, empower the restriction and monitoring orders issued by the state agencies.

The NGO has sought directions from the Court to the Centre to ‘permanently break operation and execution’ of the surveillance projects CMS, NETRA, and NATGRID, which allow bulk collection and analysis of personal data.

The NGO has also asked for incorporating a permanent, self-reliant oversight body, either judicial or parliamentary, for issuing and reviewing lawful restrictions and monitoring orders under the enabling provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the IT Act, 2000.