The Supreme Court Wednesday agreed to hear a PIL seeking direction to central government to prosecute the heads of the nine cyberspace giants for endangering the country’s sovereignty and security by sharing data on Indians with American intelligence agencies.
A bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice Ranjan Gogoi agreed to hear the PIL next week after senior counsel S.N. Singh told the court that it needed urgent hearing as a huge amount of data was being passed on by internet companies to US intelligence agencies every hour.
At the mentioning of the PIL by Singh, the court inquired as to why it needed to be taken up urgently.
The PIL sought taking of urgent steps to safeguard the government’s sensitive communications, which, in breach of the provisions of Public Records Act and the Official Secrets Act, were being routed through US-based internet services and was being stored on their servers in US and being illegally intruded by US intelligence agencies.
Seeking the prosecution of the CEOs of nine cyber giants – Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Pal Talk, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple – under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Singh sought directions to the central government to initiate action against such companies for breach of contract and violation of right to privacy by sharing Indian data with US intelligence agencies.
Urging the court to direct the central government to ask the internet companies doing business in India that they must set up their servers in country so that they come under legal regime, the PIL also sought direction that all the government communications be stopped from being routed through US based internet companies in pursuance to the provision of Public Records Act, 1993.
The PIL has sought action against all the officials who have preferred the private internet companies for routing their official communication instead of relying on government’s National Informatics Centre.
Under the provisions of the Public Records Act, 1993, the records and data cannot be kept or transferred outside the country.
The PIL said that the US’ National Security Agency had direct access to the servers of internet companies to mine the user data and strategic and sensitive files as part of secret surveillance project PRISM.
Referring to the report, the PIL said that NSA mined huge data from the servers of Microsoft (September 2007), Yahoo (March 2008), Google (January 2009), Facebook (June 2009), Pal Talk (December 2009), You Tube (September 2010), Skype (February 2011), AOL (March 2011) and Apple (October 2012) without the consent of Indian subscribers.