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1. Surveillance By State Agencies

1.1. Possible avenues of surveillance in India

  • Central Monitoring System is a centralized telephone interception provisioning system. Under CMS, all the data intercepted by Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) is collected & stored in central & regional databases. Law enforcement agencies can get access to intercepted communication on near real time basis.

  • National Intelligence Grid linking multiple Govt databases (such as banks, airlines, SEBI, railways and telecommunication operators) to aggregate citizen information.

  • NeTrA (Network Traffic Analysis) is a dragnet electronic surveillance system that monitors internet traffic using dynamic filters based on keywords.

  • DNA Profiling bill

  • Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS)

  • Stored biometrics under Aadhaar database

  • Brain Mapping, Iris Scans, Fingerprinting and bodily scans in investigation

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday issued an order authorizing 10 Central agencies to intercept, monitor, and decrypt “any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer.”

1.2. More about the order

  • The agencies given such authoritative access are: Intelligence Bureau (IB), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), Directorate of Signal Intelligence (for service areas of Jammu & Kashmir, North-East and Assam only) and Commissioner of Police, Delhi.

  • According to it, the subscriber/service provider/ person in charge of the computer resource will be bound to extend all facilities and technical assistance to the agencies and failing to do will invite 7-year imprisonment and fine.

  • The order derives its basis from Section 69 of the IT Act and its 2009 rules, which gives power to intercept, monitor, and decrypt “any information” generated, transmitted, received, or stored in “any” computer resource to the central and state governments, or “any of its authorized officers”.

1.3. Government’s stand

  • The order is based on the principle that the right to privacy is not absolute. Surveillance is essential to ensure national security and pre-empt terrorist threats and thus, constitutes a ‘reasonable restriction’ under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

  • It is in the very nature of surveillance that it must take place outside the public eye.

  • The above order only nominates the agencies, which on a case-to-case basis and subject to oversight, will obtain orders from designated judicial authorities to intercept. It doesn’t intend to provide any blanket powers.


  • Lack of oversight: Decisions about surveillance are taken by the executive branch (including the review process), with no parliamentary or judicial supervision either ex-ante or ex-post, of surveillance measures. Although mandated by the SC, the actual notification itself does not clearly require the Union Home Secretary to pre-approve such surveillance orders.

  • Vague grounds of application: Under Section 69 of the IT Act, the grounds of surveillance have been simply lifted from Article 19(2) of the Constitution, and pasted into the law. They include very wide phrases such as “friendly relations with foreign States” or “sovereignty and integrity of India”. The Act doesn’t provide does not provide the procedure or the object for such an exercise or the quantum of period for which a person’s private data could be intercepted.

  • Opaque regime: No information available about the bases on which surveillance decisions are taken, and how the legal standards are applied. E.g. According to a 2014 RTI request, 250 surveillance requests are approved every day on an average.

  • Potential of misuse: State control of public lives and surveillance excesses as evident in the past cases of privacy breach and snooping. Individual officers responsible for executing automated process may use private information for personal gain in absence of safeguards.

  • Against Privacy: In its Puttaswamy judgment [2017], SC asserted that the government must carefully balance individual privacy and the legitimate concerns of the state, even if national security was at stake. Any invasion of privacy must satisfy tests on 3 parameters need (legitimate state aim), proportionality (least restrictive method to achieve state’s goals) and legality (postulated by the law) – to ensure that fair, just and reasonable procedure is followed without any selective targeting and profiling. A blanket power to wide range of government agencies to access an individual’s encrypted material is a clear violation of the judgement. Moreover, an individual can never know that she is being surveilled means that challenging it before a court is a near-impossibility.

  • Procedural Challenges: Platforms such as WhatsApp have end to end encryption, which are very difficult to break. Also, Internet communication can be sent using proxy servers with mail encryption which makes it Case Study-PRISM surveillance program in the US • In 2013, ex-NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the industrial-level surveillance of private communications undertaken by the American government, officially known as the PRISM project.

  • One feature of the American surveillance program was “telephony metadata collection“, where all the details of phone conversations (numbers involved, duration, time of call etc.) minus the actual content of the call were intercepted and stored in a database maintained by the National Security Agency.

  • NSA surveillance was challenged on statutory and constitutional grounds in American Civil Liberties Union vs. James Clapper [2013].

  • The appeals court found that out of more than 50 instances where terrorist attacks had been prevented, not even a single successful pre-emption was based on material collected from the NSA’s surveillance regime. It asserted that collection of ‘staggering amount of metadata’ doesn’t satisfy the reasonability clause of Section 215 of the Patriot Act and has a chilling effect on an individual’s expression. untraceable. Most of the companies don’t have servers in India (in absence of any data localization laws). Law Enforcement Agencies request data through mutual legal assistance agreements, which takes long time to process.

  • No data privacy legislation: No national privacy legislation is in place which assigns the liability in case of data-theft and can make parties – Government or private - pay damages when they injure the individual by losing their personal data.

Way Forward

  • Parliamentary Oversight: It must be acknowledged that a system of government surveillance may have a chilling effect upon the right to freedom of expression and privacy. Thus, a privacy commission can be appointed to help regulate and oversee surveillance activities, with regular briefings to Parliament.

  • Judicial Oversight: In Aadhaar case, SC held that allowing disclosure of information in the interest of national security to be in the hands of a joint secretary only is unconstitutional. Indian Privacy Code, 2018, is a model Bill that stipulates that all communications surveillance and data access orders require approval by serving high court judges designated to special surveillance review tribunals.

  • Mandatorily specify a probable cause for potential threat: Any such sweeping power is liable to be misused if the grounds of application remain broad and vaguely worded. Any evidence obtained through unconstitutional surveillance must be statutorily stipulated to be inadmissible in court.

  • Privacy Law: To achieve the balance between national security and individual privacy, a privacy law on the lines of recommendations of BN Shrikrishna Committee would be a good starting point. Any system of data collection should factor in privacy risks and include procedures and systems to protect citizen information.

  • Although the target cannot know of the proposed surveillance, there must exist a lawyer to present the case on behalf of the target of surveillance so that objective decision is made.

  • Additionally, there is a need for discussion and explanation of legal measures on surveillance before actual implementation, to build a better trust with civic society.

2. Permanent Chairman Of The Chiefs Of Staff Committee

2.1. About PCCoSC

  • It is proposed to be headed by a four-star military officer, who will be equivalent to chiefs of army, airforce and navy.

  • He would look into joint issues of the services like training of troops, acquisition of weapon systems and joint operations of the services.

  • He would also be in-charge of the tri-services command at Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

  • The post has also been referred to as Chief of Defence Staff.

  • He will head the Chiefs of Staff Committee meetings.

  • Various committees such as the Kargil Review committee led by K Subramaniam and the Naresh Chandra committee of 2011 recommended a permanent chairman.

2.2. Arguments in favour of PCCoSC

  • Better Coordination: It will improve jointness in military command by integration in projects and resource sharing. For example during 1962 and 1965, all three segments of the armed forces face difficulties in coordination.

  • Unfragmented advice: The PCCoSC is envisaged as a single-point military adviser to the government.

  • Better defence acquisition: It would also improve capacity of the armed forces on defence acquisition by removing time and cost overruns.

  • Quick Decision-making during War: Often during war a difficult decision can only be made by a specially selected defence chief and not by a committee like the CoSC that operates on the principle of the least common denominator.

2.3. Challenges to setting up PCCoSC

  • Threat to Democratic Process: It is apprehended that the Defence Services will become too powerful and subvert civilian control over the military with possibilities of a military coup.

  • Status Quo: The present arrangement of Chief of Staff Committee (CoSC) has served us well over the years and hence there is resistance against “unnecessary change”.

  • Resistance within the armed forces: There is said to be inhibition amongst Service Chiefs over the years that their position would get undermined if the CDS were to be appointed.

  • The feeling among the smaller Services, particularly the Air Force, of Army dominance in defence policy formulation. Some fear that a CDS may lead to a situation like the one that prevailed before 1947, when the Army was the dominant Service.

  • Resistance within Bureaucracy: There is said to opposition by the civilian bureaucracy as their control over the higher defence set up would be diminished.

  • Ceremonial Post: There is also a concern that the post may become a ceremonial post without any clear cut roles and responsibilities.

3. Information Fusion Centre - Indian Ocean Region

3.1. Information Fusion Centre

Related News

  • India has recently signed the ascension agreement to the Trans Regional Maritime Network (T-RMN) which facilitates information exchange on the movement of commercial traffic on the high seas.

  • The multilateral construct comprises of 30 countries and is steered by Italy.

  • It will give the country access to information about ships passing through the Indian Ocean Region, thereby helping to check suspicious and criminal activities and illegal trade across the ocean.

  • The Information Fusion Centre (IFC) is a 24/7 regional information sharing centre.

  • The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram. IMAC is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the coastline of the nation.

What functions will it perform?

  • The IFC-IOR is established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region and beyond, by:

  • o building a common coherent maritime situation picture

  • o acting as a maritime information hub for the region

  • o enabling mutual collaboration

  • o understanding the concerns and threats to ensure safety and security

  • Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial non-military shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.

  • All countries that have already signed white shipping information exchange agreements with India are IFC partners.

  • Subsequently, the IFC-IOR would host liaison officers from foreign countries to enable better interconnection, quicker analysis of information and timely inputs.

  • Additionally, the Centre would undertake conduct of exercises and training capsules in maritime information collection and sharing.

4. Un Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact

Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy

  • The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted it in 2006 and it is a unique global instrument to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism.

  • UNGA reviews the Strategy every two years, making it a living document attuned to Member States’ counter-terrorism priorities.

  • The four pillars of the Global Strategy include: o Measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

  • o Measures to prevent and combat terrorism.

  • o Measures to build states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard.

  • o Measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.

4.1. About UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact

  • It is an agreement between the UN chief, 36 organizational entities, the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) and the World Customs Organisation, to better serve the needs of Member States when it comes to tackling the scourge of international terrorism.


  • To ensure that the United Nations system provides coordinated capacity-building support to Member States, at their request, in implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and other relevant resolutions.

  • To foster close collaboration between the Security Council mandated bodies and the rest of the United Nations system.

  • The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Compact Coordination Committee will oversee and monitor the implementation of the Compact which will be chaired by UN Under-Secretary-General for counter-terrorism.

  • It will replace the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, which was established in 2005 to strengthen UN system-wide coordination and coherence of counter-terrorism efforts.


Why there is a need for global compact for counter terrorism?

  • Coordination: Given the number of players involved, the enormity of the task for Counter terrorism, and the limited resources available, effective coordination is crucial.

  • Porous borders: In recent years, terrorist networks have evolved, moving away from a dependency on state sponsorship and many of the most dangerous groups and individuals now operate as nonstate actors. Taking advantage of porous borders and interconnected international systems—finance, communications, and transit—terrorist groups can operate from every corner of the globe.

  • Incapacity of countries to control terrorist threats: Multilateral initiatives bolster state capacity to build institutions and programs that strengthen a range of activities, from policing to counter radicalization programs.

  • Emerging challenges: Vigilance against misuse of emerging technology such as artificial intelligence, drones and 3D (three-dimensional) printing, as well as against the use of hate-speech and distortion of religious beliefs by extremist and terrorist groups.

Counter-terrorism - India’s involvement at UN

  • India has prioritised the adoption of an intergovernmental framework to combat terrorism.

  • India introduced the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in 1996 that defined terrorism and enhanced “normative processes for the prosecution and extradition of terrorists.”

  • Active participation in several counter-terrorism discussions, such as drafting a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in the General Assembly in 2006, serving as a founding members of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF), and supporting counterterrorism mechanisms established by UN Security Council Resolutions, such as Resolutions 1267, 1988, and 1989 related to sanctions against Al-Qaeda/Taliban, Resolution 1373 establishing the Counter-Terrorism Committee, and Resolution 1540 addressing the non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction to terrorist organisations.

December Internal Security Threats

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