None 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.