Monthly Archives: August 2014

Banks In India Refuse To Give Direct Access To Natgrid To Their Data Base And Customers Details

Banks In India Refuse To Give Direct Access To Natgrid To Their Data Base And Customers DetailsNone can deny that Privacy right is a Human Right and not a government charity anymore. Governments across the world are required to keep in mind the Privacy rights in the information era while launching various projects and initiatives. Otherwise, these projects and initiatives can be challenged before the Courts as illegal and unconstitutional.

The BJP led government must protect privacy rights of Indians that has been neglected for decades. However, just like its predecessor Congress party, even the BJP government is also not interested in protecting civil liberties in cyberspace. BJP government has done nothing to bring transparency and accountability of the intelligence agencies of India. Intelligence agencies of India need parliamentary oversight and suitable legal framework regulating their operations.  Similarly, an e-surveillance policy of India is also urgently needed.

The BJP government is supporting the illegal and unconstitutional e-surveillance projects of Congress government. These include projects like National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) Project of India, Central Monitoring System (CMS) Project of India, Internet Spy System Network and Traffic Analysis System (NETRA) of India, Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) Project of India, etc. All these projects are operating without any legal framework and without any Parliamentary and Judicial scrutiny.

The Natgrid project is an ambitious project of great utility but it is poorly executed. The Natgrid project of India needs Techno Legal Implementation to be successful and legal. However, BJP government is not paying heed towards these requirements. Successive governments in India have thought that they can force illegal e-surveillance projects upon Indian citizens and organisations.

However, this line of thought of Indian government is not backed by banks of India. For instance, banks in India have already refused aadhaar based authentication as Aadhaar project is the most draconian e-surveillance project of India. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) even postponed the implementation of biometric authentication for credit card swipe machines and ATMs due to protest by banks of India. Now banks of India have taken a firm stand against Natgrid project by refusing to grant it direct access to the details and database of their customers.

This is a significant win for privacy advocates who have been stressing hard to protect privacy rights of Indian citizens. “The issue pertaining to creating institutional framework for sharing of information relating to the banks with Natgrid was examined by RBI in consultation with the Indian Banks Association (IBA)”, minister of state in the ministry of finance Nirmala Sitharaman told Lok Sabha in a written reply. She revealed that RBI and bankers were “unanimously of the opinion that it would not be possible for banks under the current legislative framework to disclose customer information”.

“Accordingly, it was advised that in line with international practices it may not be possible for banks to allow any agency direct access to its database”, said the minister. Further, Ms Sitharaman said that under the “extant legislative framework it may not be possible for banks to share customer related information like name and address of the customer and account number of the customer with any government agency”.

This reply has also hinted towards the need to change the outlook of privacy in the modern times. The BJP government cannot postpone the requirement to enact suitable techno legal laws in the fields of Privacy, intelligence agencies, e-surveillance, cyber security, data security, etc.

However, the ultimate responsibility to protect the privacy rights of Indian citizens lies with them only.  Bank customers and Indian citizens must protest against any possible privacy intrusion attempt of Indian government and its agencies to the maximum possible extents.

Aadhaar In Its Present Form Has No Welfare Elements Attached To It Whatsoever But Is An E-Surveillance Project

Praveen Dalal-Managing Partner Of Perry4Law And CEO Of PTLBAadhaar Project was visualised as a public good project but it ended up being a project that is violating various Constitutional and Statutory Provisions. The Constitutional Validity of the Aadhaar Project has been questioned before the Supreme Court of India. In another related case, the Supreme Court of India has held that the Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for availing Public Services. Similarly, the Supreme Court has also restrained UIDAI from transferring any Biometric Information of any person who has been allotted the Aadhaar number to any other Agency without his consent in writing (PDF).

Just like Congress Government even the BJP Government has declared that it would bring and ensure a Legal Framework for Aadhaar. However, till the writing of this Article, no news about a Legal Framework for Aadhaar is available. As a result the position on the date is that Aadhaar is operating without any Legal Framework and Parliamentary Oversight.

Aadhaar Project in its “Current Form” is suffering from many “Illegalities and Infirmities”. For instance:

(1) Aadhaar has been made “Mandatory and Exclusive” for availing many Public Services in India despite Supreme Court’s Interim Order and Constitutional Prohibitions.

(2) Aadhaar Project is not supported by any Legal Framework and is not subject to “Parliamentary Oversight”.

(3) Aadhaar Project is violating various “Civil Liberties” like Privacy Rights of Indians.

(4) Aadhaar Project is “Grossly Weak” on the fronts of Cyber Security and Data Security.

(5) Aadhaar is not “Full Proof and Tamper Proof” and it can be “Obtained Illegally” and in Wrong Name.

(6) The “Authentication Mechanism” of Aadhaar Project is also faulty and in many cases gives “False Negative Alarms”.

(7) The present Practices and Methods adopted by Indian Government and its Agencies for Biometric Collection of Indians/Residents is Unconstitutional.

(8) Even “Clubbing/Merging” of Biometric Data of Aadhaar and National Population Register (NPR) has “Serious Constitutional Ramifications” and the same should not be done.

(9) Absence of Encryption Policy of India (PDF) to safeguard Biometrics Data, etc.

If we add the “Unaccountable Intelligence Related Exercises” of Indian Government, its Agencies and Foreign Partners like United States, the list is too bulky to be discussed here. Suffice is to say that the Aadhaar Project is suffering from many “Vices and Illegalities”. These include Civil Liberties Violations, Unconstitutional E-Surveillance Issues, Data Security and Cyber Security Issues, Compulsory Nature of Aadhaar, Unaccountable Intelligence Agencies, Foreign E-Surveillance Threats, Telecom Security Issues, Integration with Surveillance projects like NATGRID, Unconstitutional Biometrics Collections, etc.

All these aspects make the Aadhaar Project an Unconstitutional Project that was required to be Scrapped by the Modi Government. Alternatively, all these Constitutional Infirmities and Illegalities were required to be “Eliminated” by the Modi Government before allotting further funds to Aadhaar Project. There cannot be a “Third Option” for the Modi Government and wasting precious “Public Money” on Unconstitutional Project like Aadhaar “Can Never Be Justified” even by the Standards of the “Fancy Words and Empty Promises” made by the Congress and BJP Governments regarding Aadhaar Project.

Not only this, the entire situation has also raised “Serious Questions” about the “Real Intentions” of Indian Government vis-à-vis Aadhaar Project. The “Present Form” of Aadhaar Project and the behaviour of Indian Government regarding Civil Liberties have definitely negated the theory of Welfare Project as projected by both Congress and BJP Government. But if Aadhaar Project is not a Welfare Project what is its purpose and true nature?

In my personal opinion, Aadhaar in its present form has no Welfare Elements attached to it whatsoever but is an “Endemic E-Surveillance Project” that is operating well beyond the Constitutional Protections, Parliamentary Oversight and Judicial Scrutiny. The sole purpose seems to be to club the Biometric Details of Indian Citizens/resident with other “Centralised Databases” like National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) Project of India, Central Monitoring System (CMS) Project of India, Internet Spy System Network and Traffic Analysis System (NETRA) of India, Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) Project of India, etc. Gradually, both Biometrics and Non Biometrics based details and data would be clubbed with the DNA Databank of India that Indian Government would definitely go for in the near future.

It is for You to decide whether You wish to give Your Children a “Free and Transparent India” or You wish Your Children to be a Guinea Pig or Lab Rat for Indian E-Surveillance Projects like Aadhaar that are clearly Illegal and Unconstitutional.