The government spy was not so empowered as to feel free to act against anyone as it may please him.
The dystopian future George Orwell wrote about in his seminal novel 1984 is already upon us. The government has just authorised 10 of its super snooping agencies of law enforcement, espionage and just about all of the establishment to spy upon all the people. This is a fact. The argument in favour is just quibbling over semantics. The political establishment seems to have totally lost its bearings in its paranoia over every citizen of this country being a potential criminal, drug dealer or terrorist. What else could have impelled this sudden desire to enhance snooping “to intercept, monitor and decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer in the country?” Add also your smartphone and tablet under the generic “computer” and the story of spying on everyone in the country is complete. Big Brother has just authorised all its plenipotentiaries to eavesdrop, spy, snoop and put under the surveillance microscope each and every citizen of our 1.3 billion nation.
This shameful traipsing into private lives has the imprimatur of a government overpowered by a siege mentality. All this is being sanctioned in the name of national security and the only conclusion to be drawn from the staggering intent of such a blanket order is the insecurity of the government. It is being said in defence of these draconian measures that they have existed from the 2009 days of the UPA coalition. But there were rules and regulations governing permissions and oversight envisaged then. The government spy was not so empowered as to feel free to act against anyone as it may please him.
The silver lining is, regardless of pious undertakings of seeking consent of higher authority, these measures are likely to attract judicial attention. A Supreme Court that was so taken up by privacy concerns in the Aadhaar case will not be a silent spectator to this overwhelming challenge to privacy.
To imagine a corrupt, bumbling and infighting CBI and its likes are also a part of the hydra-headed Frankenstein let loose upon the populace and completes the dystopian scenario with a distinct authoritarian touch, more in the style of totalitarian regimes than a democracy. Not even a placatory promise to take the approval of the Union home secretary sounds convincing. The procedure is such that anyone in 10 agencies can put any citizen on the snooping list, including prying into emails, leaving nothing sacred for personal privacy. Unless a judicial authority, independent of the executive, is nominated as the signing authority, there will be no control over such invasive executive actions. The digital world has expanded so much people will find various options to keep under the radar if they need to. What the government is offering as explanation for this all-pervasive snooping is a Goebbelsian twist to the existing framework of laws that was far from invasive and had a well laid out procedure for intercepting suspected terrorists or whoever. Beware Indians, you are being snooped upon.