New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that it will hear arguments on 19 August on a public interest litigation (PIL) questioning the legality of intelligence agencies exercising police powers in the absence of any law.

A bench of justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant also asked the Centre to file its response in terms of the order passed by the Karnataka high court in 2012 on a plea which was later transferred to the apex court.

Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), said, “Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) are functioning without any oversight of Parliament."

Former RAW officer and lawyer Nisha P. Bhatia, who has intervened in the case, meanwhile sought dismissal of the PIL. The court had in 2013 issued a notice to the Centre on a PIL seeking the accountability of IB, RAW and NTRO, as in other democratic countries such as the UK and the USA.

The PIL has also alleged that intelligence agencies exercise police powers in the absence of any law made by Parliament to govern their functioning.

Earlier, the court was reluctant to entertain the plea but later agreed to consider it after senior advocate Anil Diwan had pointed out the PIL raised several important questions of law.

The plea said the agencies, which were not backed by laws made by Parliament, have been llowed to exercise powers such as phone-tapping. It said that accountability of these agencies should be ensured because they had been “operating since their very inception under executive orders issued by the government without any parliamentary control or oversight".

The PIL has said, “India is the only democracy in the world whose intelligence agencies have no legitimacy in the eyes of the law, and are not accountable to the people or Parliament."

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