A government should have the power to monitor communication lines if it has to maintain security (“Lethal surveillance versus privacy,” June 22). But surveillance should be undertaken only if there is strong proof against a person or an organisation. The Central Monitoring System will enable the government to watch almost everyone in the country. Just because a few indulge in unlawful activities, all citizens should not be subject to such harsh treatment. India is a democracy and its rulers are elected representatives. The state cannot snoop on its law-abiding citizens surreptitiously.
If CMS is implemented, the state will become a Leviathan as conceived by Hobbes, controlling even people’s thoughts. We know how unscrupulously politicians and bureaucrats will exploit CMS to usher in the “foulest thraldom.” The national Emergency clamped in 1975 was grossly misused to silence dissent and enforce conformity. Thousands of political leaders were imprisoned. MISA, POTA and TADA were all grossly misused. Greater the powers of our politicians, greater will be their misuse.
During the English Civil War in 1644, John Milton appealed to Parliament to end the state licensing of newspapers. The notion of freedom of speech being above all liberties endured for centuries till technology undid it. Governments want to snoop around everything and everyone, under the pretext of national security being “paramount.”
One can’t ignore the importance of surveillance. It is an effective tool in the hands of the government. At the same time, the state cannot violate the rights of its own citizens in the name of security. It needs to evolve a middle path.