The Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Centre on a PIL demanding regulatory mechanism and accountability of Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) under a statutory regime.
Also issuing notices to the three intelligence agencies, a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir asked them to file replies within six weeks.
The Bench requested Attorney General G E Vahanvati to assist the court on the next date of hearing.
Earlier, senior advocates Anil Divan and Prashant Bhushan brought to the notice of the court that petitioner NGO ‘CPIL’ has amended the prayers of the writ and instead of a directive to the Centre, they now sought a declaration that RAW, IB and NTRO, “which are functioning without any appropriate legislative oversight are a threat to the rule of law and fundamental rights”.
Questioning the very basis of policing powers being exercised by the agencies in absence of any statutory provision, Divan said that phone tapping and audio-video recording were examples of powers that these agencies exercised without being authorised under any law.
Citing excerpts from the books written by a few former intelligence agencies’ officers, the lawyer said their writings highlighted several instances of illegalities and corrupt practices.
The court however refused to entertain this argument. “Somebody says something in his book will be a matter of personal opinion. Conversation between a former Prime Minister and an officer cannot be a subject matter of this petition,” it said.
Divan then said the Bench should, in the larger interest of public, admit this petition since the actions of the agencies pertained to violation of the right to privacy.
“The court needs to look at the issue. All we want is a mechanism where these agencies are made accountable. Let the Supreme Court issue some guidelines. The court should also take into account a possibility of every state having one such agency of its own by way of an executive order,” argued Divan.
The Bench then allowed amendments in the prayers and issued notice.
The petition has sought regulation of the intelligence agencies in line with the supervisory mechanisms available in the USA and the UK.
Seeking to bring the agencies under an Act to be passed by Parliament and to ensure they are not misused by the government, CPIL claimed that the agencies were acting “without any sanction of the law” and hence violated the rule of law as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.
It has also asked for audit of these agencies by the Comptroller and Auditor General since they were funded by public money.
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