Telco’s says no breach of privacy in sharing call data records
For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.
Context of News:
- The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) refuted allegations that call data records (CDRs) sought from carriers was a breach of privacy and amounted to surveillance, saying that the details will be used to study poor network quality, call drops and cross connection complaints.
Understand this matter through Background:
- The Cellular Operators Association of India has reported mass requests from the government for mobile call detail records (CDRs), a serious departure from the stringent protocol established by the UPA government following an uproar in 2013 after prominent politicians were found to be under unauthorised surveillance.
- Records have been sought for all consumers .In the case of Delhi; records were sought for the last three days of campaigning before assembly elections, while the anti-CAA protests were at their peak. Requests were delivered by local offices of the Department of Telecommunications, taking advantage of a condition in licences granted to operators, which permits the DoT to inspect their CDRs, which go back one year.
What Established Protocol Say?
- CDR request is supposed to be sanctioned by the home secretary:
- These mass requests from the government for mobile call detail records (CDRs) depart from established protocol and international expectations on multiple counts, and amount to a serious breach of privacy. While a CDR request is supposed to be sanctioned by the home secretary and handled by a police officer of the rank of SP or above, DoT offices were used.
- Breach of reporting CDR requests on a monthly basis to the district magistrate:
- The requirement to report CDR requests on a monthly basis to the district magistrate was not complied with. Most importantly, no reason was offered for snooping on the traffic of citizens. It is generally understood that communications surveillance must be specific and purposive, and must not trespass on the privacy of the innocent.
- Indiscriminate mass surveillance of communications invades the privacy of all citizens to the detriment of public trust. In this case, it was for purposes which are not verifiably honourable, since the government has chosen not to reveal them.
- Security and privacy are not opposite ends of a seesaw; you don’t have to accept less of one to get more of the other.
- Different arguments are put forward that should be applied to the government and its citizens. To reduce the chances of terrorists entering our country, some loss of privacy and tighter security measures are required. True, these tactics affect the innocent as well as the guilty, but when the incredibly hard to detect “lone wolf terrorist,” is the assailant of choice, casting a wider net via internet surveillance makes a much more effective security measure.
- The fine line between privacy and national security is dynamic. The government must constantly reassess its need to invade citizens’ personal privacy, according to the information’s possible contribution to a more secure our country.
In Upper House nomination, a fall for ‘aloofness’
GS Paper II
Topic: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
Mains: significance of independence of judiciary
What’s the News?
The recent nomination of a former Chief Justice of India, Justice Ranjan Gogoi to the Rajya Sabha is a blow against the judiciary’s independence.
- Shortly before his retirement from the Supreme Court of India, he delivered several important verdicts with far-reaching political consequences that left the government pleased, including the Ayodhya judgment.
- Before that, Justice Gogoi dismissed a review of the Rafale fighter aircraft deal without substantially dealing with the grounds on which the original judgment, negating an independent investigation, had been challenged.
- The original judgment relied upon several pieces of false and misleading information, conveyed to the Supreme Court by the government, in an unsigned note and handed over in a sealed cover.
Significance of independence of judiciary:
- Being Guardian of Constitution, the judiciary has to be independent — insulated from pressures and inducements.
- This independence of the judiciary is ensured by many constitutional provisions.
- Judges do not hold their offices at the “pleasure” of the President. In other words, they cannot be arbitrarily removed by the government once they are appointed, and can only be impeached by a special majority of both houses.
- Article 124(4)) of Parliament only on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
- Judges, therefore, enjoy security of tenure while holding office, which is essential for maintaining judicial independence.
Supreme Court stand:
The Supreme Court in 2014 refused to fix any cooling-off period for judges to take up government assignments after retirement; an issue which has been widely debated after former CJI P. Sathasivam took governorship soon after his tenure ended.
- Ethical angle: The average citizen may well get the impression that a judge who might look forward to being employed by the government after his retirement does not bring to bear on his work that detachment of outlook which is expected of a Judge in cases in which government is a party.
- Undermining Independence of Judiciary: Post-retirement appointment of judges may threaten or undermine judicial independence. This is because some judges — not all — are offered post-retirement employment by the government.
- Loss of Constitutional Proprietary: If a judge decides highly controversial and contested cases in favour of the government and then accepts a post-retirement job, even if there is no actual quid pro quo, would this not lead to the public perception that the independence of the judiciary is compromised.
Justice Gogoi and the government’s actions in the sexual harassment case and the offer of a Rajya Sabha seat by the government, raise serious doubts about the fairness of many critical judgments, including the ones mentioned above that were under Justice Gogoi’s watch. The precedent that he has set strikes a blow against the independence of the judiciary.