Telecom Bill Legitimises Pegasus, Will Contest It In Supreme Court, Says Subramanian Swamy

The bill grants the government the power to suspend or control any telecommunication service for public emergencies or national security
Supreme Court
Supreme Court

Subramanian Swamy took to social media on Thursday to announce his intention to legally challenge the Telecom Act in the Supreme Court.

In 2021, the Pegasus probe had sent shockwaves to the walls of the Indian parliament, exposing the vulnerability of confidential information held by key figures. A foreign spyware infiltrated the inner sanctum of the Indian parliament, capturing the sensitive data of opposition leaders, constitutional authorities, journalists, and business magnates, bringing the nation to its knees.

Cut to the present, the Lok Sabha approves a debated telecom bill, granting the government temporary control over national security. The bill also introduces a non-auction approach for satellite spectrum allocation.

Stepping into the digital spotlight, Subramanian Swamy wrote on X (formerly Twitter), "My Law Associates and I will challenge the Telecom Act in the Supreme Court if passed in Rajya Sabha."

He considered it a hidden endorsement of Pegasus-style surveillance and suggested the Modi government to hold off the bill (in Rajya Sabha's judgment) until the tides of the 2024 General Elections subside.

What is the Telecommunications Bill 2023?

Earlier this week, the Indian government made a significant move by introducing the draft of The Telecommunications Bill, 2023, in the Lok Sabha during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. This proposed legislation marks an initiative to repeal the Indian Telegraph Act (1885), the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act (1933), and The Telegraph Wire (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950. 

The bill aims to provide the government with the authority to suspend or control/manage any telecommunication service or network in the event of a public emergency or matters pertaining to national security. "On the occurrence of any public emergency, including disaster management, or in the interest of public safety, the Central Government or a State Government or any officer specially authorised in this behalf by the Central Government or a State Government, if satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, by notification— take temporary possession of any telecommunication service or telecommunication network from an authorised entity," as proposed by the bill.

The Catch?

While the Bill was being passed on Wednesday, the Lok Sabha breezed through the passage of the Telecommunications Bill, 2023, with a lively voice vote. However, instead of substantive debates and loud conflicts, the walls of the Lok Sabha echoed with a surprising silence as the Opposition benches stood vacant. A staggering 97 MPs found themselves suspended from the House. The suspension, on Tuesday, was attributed to their alleged disruption of House proceedings.

In the ongoing debate in the telecom space, Subramanian Swamy's recent statement could intensify pressure on the central authority.  

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