Delhi

HC seeks Centre’s reply on plea seeking information on e-surveillance

The petition challenges a Central Information Commission order refusing to direct disclosure of the data.

The petition challenges a Central Information Commission order refusing to direct disclosure of the data. | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to respond to a plea concerning the disclosure of certain statistical information on State-sponsored electronic surveillance under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Justice Yashwant Varma gave the Centre six weeks’ time to reply to the petition challenging a Central Information Commission (CIC) order refusing to direct disclosure of the data.

The Centre’s counsel said that under the Telegraph Act, the request for interception is deleted within six months unless it is required for any investigation. The counsel sought time to submit a reply.

The petitioner, Apar Gupta, co-founder and executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) had, in December 2018, filed six RTI applications seeking details of the number of orders passed under Section 69 of the Information Technology (IT) Act granting permission for electronic surveillance during a certain period.

He contended that while deciding his second appeal, the CIC proceeded on an “erroneous understanding” of the law and failed to sufficiently examine the “belated” averment of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that the data sought by him was no longer available with it as it had been destroyed.

“No personally identifiable information was sought in the RTI queries. The petitioner did not ask for details of specific interception orders or the identity or profile of the targeted individuals but instead sought anonymised and aggregate figures to understand the extent of State surveillance,” Mr. Gupta said in his plea.

The petition said that in 2019, the MHA disposed of his requests for information, stating that the disclosure of information related to lawful interception/phone tapping/monitoring, is exempted from the RTI Act.

The petition has sought specific directions to be framed to prevent the destruction of information sought in RTI proceedings, on account of the absence of rules or practices on the weeding out of documents during the pendency of RTI proceedings.


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Printable version | Sep 6, 2022 2:02:22 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/hc-seeks-centres-reply-on-plea-seeking-information-on-e-surveillance/article65685474.ece