New Delhi, June 27;The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to entertain a PIL seeking direction to the government to initiate action against Internet companies involved in sharing Internet data from India with US’ National Security Agency.
The apex court said it cannot entertain the petition as Indian agency is not involved in it and allowed the petitioner, former dean of Law Faculty of Delhi University S.N. Singh, to move any other forum for seeking remedy against Internet companies and the U.S. agency for snooping data resulting in violation of right to privacy.
“The petitioner may have right to privacy against foreign companies but this right is not covered under Article 21 of the Constitution. The petitioner can move before any other forum for remedy,” a bench of justices A.K. Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi said.
The bench also said that the court cannot direct Parliament to enact law to safeguard privacy of citizens against such snooping.
In his plea, Mr. Singh alleged that such large scale spying by the US authorities is detrimental to national security and urged the apex court to intervene in the matter.
He claimed Internet companies were sharing information with the foreign authority in “breach” of contract and violation of right to privacy.
“As per reports, nine U.S.-based Internet companies operating in India through agreements signed with Indian users, shared 6.3 billion information/data with National Security Agency of U.S. without express consent of Indian users.
“Such large scale spying by the USA authorities besides being against the privacy norms is also detrimental to national security,” the petition, filed through advocate Virag Gupta, said.
The bench, however, was not convinced and said that it cannot pass any order against the U.S. government and its agencies as it has no jurisdiction over them.
Mr. Singh sought directions to the Centre to “take urgent steps to safeguard the government’s sensitive Internet communications” which are being kept in US servers and are “unlawfully intruded upon” by U.S. Intelligence agencies through U.S.-based Internet companies under secret surveillance programme called PRISM.
In his petition, Singh has also sought directions restraining the government and its officials from using U.S.-based Internet companies for official communication and demanded that all companies doing business in India must establish their servers here so that they can be regulated as per Indian laws.
“Sovereignty of nation is at stake because no penal action is being taken by the respondent (Centre) against the culprit Internet companies,” he said in his petition.
He also referred to a report by James R Clapper, Director of U.S. National Intelligence, who had confirmed surveillance and acquisition of intelligence information of non-U.S. citizens located outside the U.S. as per provisions of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
The Centre had on June 11 expressed surprise and concern over the snooping and said it will seek information and details from the US over reports that India was the fifth most tracked country by the American intelligence which used secret data-mining programme to monitor worldwide Internet data.