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Unravelling NATGRID

Jul 08,2011 | 08:17 am

National Intelligence Grid(NATGRID), established under Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India, aims to consolidate data gathered by various agencies, both private and public, and to make the same available to law enforcement agencies of India. NATGRID functions with a budget of Rs. 2,800 crores and a staff of 300. It has been conceived by the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to‘improve’national security. The CTAG project of SFLC aims to ensure that Government agencies function in a transparent way, especially where civil liberties of citizens are concerned and there was a genuine concern regarding how NATGRID could affect the civil liberties of the citizens. The concern regarding NATGRID is with respect to the safeguards adopted to protect the privacy of citizens and ensuring that arbitrary surveillance does not happen.

Once the NATGRID is fully functional, security agencies of the Government will merely have to feed the name of a person and information will be available at the click of the button. It is Government’s surveillance of the citizens of this country at its best. The Supreme Court in the People’s Union For Civil Liberties V/s State of India [ 1999(9) SCALE ] has ruled against arbitrary surveillance.

Concerned with the Cabinet Committee on Security’s approval for the NATGRID , a number of Right to Information( RTI) applications were filed by SFLC under the CTAG project.

The first RTI application was filed on the 11thMay 2011 asking for the following information and the reply to the application, dated 9.6.2011, is as follows:

 

S. No Information Sought Response
1

What is the legal framework under which the NATGRID is functioning. Is NATGRID duly constituted as an ‘Authority’ under the Government of India, if so, under which provision of law has NATGRID been constituted. Please provide a copy of the same.

NATGRID is established as an attached office of the Ministry of Home Affairs as per the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security.
2

Has the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security been granted? If yes , Kindly provide a copy of the same.

Yes, NATGRID has been constituted with the approval of Cabinet Committee on Security. Minutes of the Cabinet meeting being a secret document, it cannot be provided.
3

What is the designation of the Officer In charge of the NATGRID Project and who does the said Officer In charge report to?

The Chief Executive Officer In-charge of the Project.
4

What is the budgetary allocations for the NATGRID project.

An amount of Rs. 13 crore was utilized during the financial year 2010-2011.
5

What government and private databases will be linked to the NATGRID. If so under what order or rules. Please provide a copy of the same.

Security agencies can seek the details from NATGRID database. Data from Airline companies, Telecom Companies, etc. would be uploaded to NATGRID database.
6

What are the measures in place to prevent the misuse of NATGRID? If yes, please provide a photocopy of these guidelines/circulars

All possible measures are being taken to prevent misuse of NATGRID . For security reasons we are unable to provide the details/ orders.
7

What are the various Governmental agencies that will have an access to NATGRID?

All the Security agencies will have an access to NATGRID
8

Does this project have any policy favouring Free and Open Source Software(FOSS)?

‘ NO’

 

Concerned about the replies provided, SFLC, in view of its social objective of ensuring digital freedom and privacy of citizens, filed a second RTI application , dated 11.06.2011. Wherein the information sought was as follows:

 

  1. The name and qualification of CEO of NATGRID.
  2. The process for appointment of CEO.
  3. The details that is names and headquarters of the companies and Government entities from which the data would be uploaded in the NATGRID.
  4. The names of the various Government agencies which would have an access with NATGRID database.
  5. Whether NATGRID would be run of FOSS.

In response to this, the reply was received on 30.06.2011 stating that “NATGRID/MHA is out of purview of RTI Act, 2005 under Gazette Notification No. 306 dated 9.6.2011″.

The underlying concern with the NATGRID is its privacy issues. Added with that is the threat of the Information leakage from the porous offices and systems of the Government.. This threat becomes even more serious in the case of the NATGRID being operated on proprietary software.

SFLC has filed another application dated 7.7.2011 asking for the following information:

  1. Kindly provide a copy of the Notification No. 306 dated 9.6.2011 by which NATGRID /MHA is out of purview of RTI Act, 2005.
  2. Under Section 24 (3) of the RTI Act, 2005, the said Notification should be laid before each House of Parliament. Hence information on when this Notification No. 306 dated 9.6.20011 is being laid before each House of Parliament.
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