Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Was Pranab Mukherjee's Office Bugged For E-Surveillance?

Last September, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee complained that his office was bugged. Mukherjee requested the PM to order a secret inquiry into the "serious breach of security in his office" in the form of "planted adhesives" in 16 locations in a possible surveillance attempt. Though no live microphone devices were found, he had reported it to the PM. Realising the seriousness of the issue, Intelligence Bureau (IB) immediately swept into action.

However, IB found nothing wrong at Mukherjee’s office and no surveillance equipment was found. To be on the safer side, IB increased the frequency of its “technical sweeping” in high offices.

Technical sweeping is a more advanced form of surveillance detection than the ordinary surveillance detection technique. Now instead of occasional anti-bugging exercise inside finance ministry, the IB has now included this ministry in North Block as part of its regular “technical sweeping” work like what it does for its own premises and offices of the PM in South Block and home minister in North Block.

E-surveillance has become a nuisance for not only Indian citizens but also for the government itself. Private individuals have been doing e-surveillance and phone tapping in India with or without governmental orders. We have no constitutionally sound e-surveillance and phone tapping law in India. Further, even the e-surveillance policy of India is missing. We urgently need a lawful interception law in India.

There is no provision for “judicial scrutiny” of e-surveillance and “phone tapping orders in India and this is giving lots of room for private individuals and those who have no authority of law to indulge in illegal e-surveillance and phone tapping.

Indian government must urgently do something about this serious problem that has already taken a gigantic shape. A system devised by Indian government is itself proving a nuisance for it. Time has come for the Indian government to clean the mess created by itself.