Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011

Has it ever occurred to you that the law enforcement agencies that helps in the upholding the laws of India are themselves not governed by any law. This equally applies to intelligence agencies of India. In fact, intelligence infrastructure of India is in big mess and India is not at all ready for projects like CCTNS, Natgrid, NCTC, etc.

It is no surprise that the central bureau of India (CBI) is also not governed by any law and it is operating in India without any law. It is only now that the central bureau of investigation act 2010 was drafted. Till now it is a mere draft and has not become an enforceable law. Even the constitutional validity of the national investigation agency act 2008 is doubtful.

India has been indifferent towards legal framework for law enforcement and intelligence agencies for long. This may also be attributable to the fact that Centre State relationship is very complicated and law enforcement is a State subject for legislation. However, the net result was that law enforcement and intelligence agencies of India are not regulated by any Parliamentary oversight. Even there is no lawful interception law in India and India does not bother to maintain a balance between national security and fundamental rights of Indians.

In this background the recent circulation of the draft Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulations) Bill, 2011 (Draft Intelligence Bill 2011) in the Lok Sabha came as a pleasant surprise. Presently, Intelligence Agencies of India are not governed by any Legal Framework and they are not under Parliamentary Scrutiny, informs Praveen Dalal, leading techno legal expert of India and a Supreme Court lawyer. This is a serious “Constitutional Issue” as exercise of Law Enforcement and Intelligence Powers without any “Constitutionally Valid Law” is serious violations of Constitutional provisions, opines Dalal. Finally, some sort of law making has been sought that would also bring Transparency and Accountability among the Intelligence Operations in India, suggests Dalal.

However, the proposed Bill requires some fine tuning before it is finally passed. According to Dalal there are many “Techno Legal and Constitutional Issues” that are “still missing” from the Bill. The Bill is a very good beginning though it requires many “improvements” before it is finally passed by both the Houses of Parliament. I hope and wish the Modified and Improved Bill would become an applicable law very soon, says Dalal.

Whatever the fate of the Bill may be, at least a good beginning has been made. It would have been better if opinion and suggestions of techno legal experts would have also been incorporated. But still something is better than nothing.