New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a plea challenging the December notification of the ministry of home affairs (MHA) allowing 10 central agencies to monitor and decrypt information stored on any computer in the interest of national security. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi issued notice to the centre and sought its response on the surveillance order within six weeks.

The court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking to quash the MHA order of 21 December in the interest of justice, arguing it was “illegal, unconstitutional and ultra vires".

The pleas also sought a direction from the court to prohibit security agencies from initiating criminal proceedings or investigations against anybody under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which could be invoked as per the notification.

The government order authorizes the Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Enforcement Directorate, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Bureau of Investigation, National Investigation Agency, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (for service areas of Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and Assam) and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, to track content “generated, received and stored" in any computer belonging to any individual or organization.

Giving the go-ahead under Section 69 (1) of the IT Act, 2000, the home ministry said that each case of interception, monitoring and decryption had to be approved by the Union home secretary and reviewed every two months by the cabinet secretary.

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