Seizure of personal gadgets: SC notice to govt on PIL seeking guidelines for probe agencies

Top court directs Centre to spell out its stand in four weeks

Seizure of personal gadgets: SC notice to govt on PIL seeking guidelines for probe agencies

Photo for representation. — iStock

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 30

The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre on a PIL by a group of academics seeking directions to the to lay down guidelines for probe agencies with regard to seizure, examination and preservation of personal digital and electronic devices and the contents contained therein.

A Bench headed by Justice SK Kaul last week asked the Centre to respond to the PIL after senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan highlighted the problems faced by the academic community.

Asking the petitioners to serve a copy of the PIL to the office of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, the top court directed the Centre to spell out its stand in four weeks.

“The academic community does and stores its research and writing in the electronic or digital medium, and the threat of damage, distortion, loss or premature exposure of academic or literary work in the event of seizure of electronic devices is considerable,” the PIL contended.

Assailing the “entirely unguided power” exercised by probe agencies to take control of devices that contain much, if not all, of a citizen’s personal and professional life, the petitioners said such power was required to be civilised by the top court.

The PIL has been filed by former JNU Prof Ram Ramaswamy and four others who said many persons from whom devices were seized in various cases in the recent past were from the academia or reputed authors.

If the data and research were tampered with or damaged, the loss to research in the sciences and social sciences was considerable and often irreplaceable, they contended, highlighting the fact that there was no procedure or guideline stipulated in any law or even in most police manuals of a more appropriate to the recovery of electronic/digital material, which was distinct from the recovery of other kinds of material.

“The CBDT manual has some reference to this but neither the CBI nor the NIA appear to have any procedural protocol in this regard,” they pointed out.

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