Sunday, March 3, 2024

Committee formed to frame guidelines for seizure of digital devices: Govt tells SC

The Union Government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that a committee has been constituted to look into the framing of guidelines regarding the seizure of digital devices by investigation agencies, LiveLaw reported.

A Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said the government had been sitting on the issue of framing the guidelines for nearly two years.

Justice Kaul said, “I’m finding it very difficult to accept some kind of all-within power that the agencies have…This is very dangerous. You must have better guidelines.”

Upon the assurance of the Additional Solicitor General of India that the process would be expedited, the bench adjourned until December 14 for the hearing of pleas over the arbitrary seizure of digital devices.

Senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan and advocate Prasanna S. appeared for petitioners.

Recently, 16 media collectives had written to the Chief Justice of India, urging judicial intervention to frame norms against the seizure of laptops and mobile phones of journalists on a whim.

The public interest litigation petition was filed by five academicians seeking guidelines for the seizure of personal electronic devices by investigating agencies.

The academicians drafted a set of guidelines and submitted them to the court, which then asked Senior Advocate Nithya Ramakrishnan to circulate the guidelines to the union and state governments, The Hindu reported.

Ramakrishnan said personal electronic devices could not be seized and kept in the custody of probe agencies indefinitely. At most, they could take copies of the material or content in the devices.

The senior counsel also expressed her reservations about the union government’s request for more time, saying, “300 devices have been seized from 90 journalists following the NewsClick case.”

“How will you feel if someone comes to your house and seizes and reads your letters… This is a complete assault on journalistic freedom,” Ms. Ramakrishnan argued.

Responding to this, Justice Kaul said, “For a change, they have said next week.”

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