Monday, November 5, 2012

The Draft Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011

A Draft Bill titled the Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011 has been recently circulated in the Lok Sabha. The Bill has been circulated by Manish Tewari, Member of Parliament. The bill though circulated but could not be introduced as the Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die on Friday. It is likely to be introduced in the next session of Parliament.

The Bill intends to establish a Legal Framework for Intelligence Agencies of India. Presently, Intelligence Agencies of India are not governed by any Legal Framework and they are not under Parliamentary Scrutiny.

This is a serious “Constitutional Issue” as exercise of Law Enforcement and Intelligence Powers without any “Constitutionally Valid Law” is serious violations of Constitutional provisions. Finally, some sort of law making has been sought that would also bring Transparency and Accountability among the Intelligence Operations in India. The present Intelligence Infrastructure of India is in big mess and the Bill if made an enforceable law would bring some respite.

However, there are many “Techno Legal and Constitutional Issues” that are “still missing” from the Bill. I/We would discuss the same subsequently. In this post I wish to discuss some of the provisions of the Draft Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011.

The Bill seeks to give statutory status to:

(i) Research and Analysis Wing
(ii) Intelligence Bureau and
(ii) National Technical Research Organisation.

with a view to regulate the manner of the functioning and exercise of powers by the Intelligence Agencies within and beyond the territory of India and to provide for the coordination, control and oversight of such agencies.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the proposed Bill says that Intelligence agencies are responsible for maintaining internal security and combating external threats to the sovereignty and integrity of the nation. These responsibilities range from counter-terrorism measures tackling separatist movements to critical infrastructure protection. These agencies are operating without an appropriate statutory basis delineating their functioning and operations. This tends to, among other things, compromise operational efficiency and weakens the professional fabric of these agencies. It also results in intelligence officers not having due protection when performing their duties.

Assessments and gathering of information by intelligence agencies are catalysts for law enforcement units to act, necessitating that these be reliable, accurate and in accordance with law. This kind of efficiency has been hindered by obscured responsibilities that have plagued the functioning of the agencies.

Article 21 of the Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. The Supreme Court of India has carved a right to privacy from the right to life and personal liberty. Such rights to privacy are compromised when agencies undertake surveillance operations.

In Re: Peoples Union of Civil Liberties v. Union of India, the Supreme Court issued detailed guidelines regarding telephone tapping. A proper legal framework is required to regulate surveillance of other forms, using different technologies, as well. There is an urgent need to balance the demands of security and privacy of individuals, by ensuring safeguards against the misuse of surveillance powers of intelligence agencies. Therefore, legislation is imperative to regulate the possible infringement of privacy of citizens, while giving credence to security concerns.

In view of the reasons stated, the Bill seeks to enact a legislation pursuant to Entry 8 of List I of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India to provide: -

(a) A legislative and regulatory framework for the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing and the National Technical Research Organisation;
(b) Designated Authority regarding authorisation procedure and system of warrants for operations by these agencies;
(c) A National Intelligence Tribunal for the investigation of complaints against these agencies.
(d) A National Intelligence and Security Oversight Committee for an effective oversight mechanism of these agencies; and
(e) An Intelligence Ombudsman for efficient functioning of the agencies and for matters connected therewith.

The Bill is a very good beginning though it requires many “improvements” before it is finally passed by both the Houses of Parliament. I hope and wish the Modified and Improved Bill would become an applicable law very soon.

Source: PTLB Blog