India’s Central Monitoring System is chilling, given its reckless and irresponsible use of sedition and Internet laws, says Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has described as “chilling” the Indian government’s Central Monitoring System (CMS), tasked with monitoring all forms of communication on the phone and the Internet in the country.

India should enact clear laws to ensure that increased surveillance of phones and the Internet did not undermine rights to privacy and free expression, the international human rights body said.

In April 2013, India began rolling out the CMS, which would enable the government to monitor all phone and Internet communication. It would provide government agencies centralised access to the telecommunications network and facilitate direct monitoring of phone calls, text messages, and Internet use bypassing service providers.

“India’s CMS is chilling, given its reckless and irresponsible use of the sedition and Internet laws,” it said. “New surveillance capabilities have been used around the world to target critics, journalists, and human rights activists.”

As the CMS was created without Parliamentary approval, the government should initiate a full public debate about the intended use of the system before proceeding, HRW said. It recalled the arrests of a few persons, including two young girls, under tough laws in Kolkata, Mumbai and Puducherry, for alleged misuse of Internet communication.

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