India govt tapped 1,300 e-mail IDs in Q4

Some 500 new e-mail IDs and 4,000 new phones were intercepted, on top of existing ones already under surveillance, bringing total to 1,300 e-mail IDs and 10,000 phones for last three months.

India's Home Affairs Ministry ordered the interception of about 1,300 e-mail IDs and 10,000 phones between October and December last year.

Indian Home Secretary RK Singh, the designated officer for authorizing a wire tap by a security agency, cleared some 4,000 new requests of phone surveillance, of which 700 were for tapping overseas connections. About 500 new e-mail addresses of individuals were also added to the existing 800 e-mail IDs already under surveillance, The Economic Times reported Thursday, citing a document it reviewed.

The report said between October and December last year, most of the surveillance requests came from the Intelligence Bureau, followed by the Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Army's Signals Intelligence Directorate, State Intelligence units and the police departments of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

A top-level committee, which members include Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar, and Department of Legal Affairs Secretary BA Agrawal, had met on Dec. 10 last year, to review interceptions sanctioned by the Union Home Secretary in the last 90 days. This committee meets every three months to review the clear wire tapping under orders of India's Supreme Court, the Economic Times report said.

About 460 clearances for the wire tapping of phones and e-mail IDs were given on the pretext of public emergency and threat to public safety, according to the article.

Interception requests from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau were found to be in accordance with the Indian Telegraph Act, the committee members noted in the document.

Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 states that the government is authorized to intercept or detain messages, if satisfied that it is necessary to do so in the interests of the sovereignty, integrity, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offense.

However, wire tapping to detect tax evasion by Income Tax authorities is not permitted. The Economic Times report noted that the Center for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) is building a central monitoring system that will enable the government bypass having to engage telecom operators for legal interception. C-DOT is the Indian government-owned development center for telecom technology.