PIL seeking restraint on government from deploying surveillance systems: Delhi HC issues notice to Centre

The Delhi High Court Wednesday issued notice to the Central Government in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) and the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) seeking an order to restrain the government from continuing to deploy three surveillance systems, namely Centralised Monitoring System (CMS), Network & Traffic Analysis (NETRA) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID).

A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan after hearing advocate Prashant Bhushan for the petitioner called for a reply from the government and listed the matter for further hearing on January 7.

Bhushan submitted that collectively, NATGRID, Central Monitoring System (CMs) and Netra create a 360° surveillance on citizens, including judges of the high courts and the Supreme Court.

These surveillance systems, the plea alleged, allowed the government to monitor communications of individuals through mobile phones, landlines and the internet.

It argued that these three surveillance systems operated in complete violation of the right to privacy which had been held to be a part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution in the Aadhar judgment i.e. Justice K.S Puttaswamy vs. Union of India (2017) 10 SCC 1.

The plea added that the system was not backed by any law, and thus were operating in disregard of the principle of proportionality which mandates the application of mind by the concerned authority before invading the privacy of an individual to determine whether or not surveillance is necessary, for a legitimate aim, and whether there are less intrusive ways of securing the legitimate aim.

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