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Judiciary and Activists Demand Repeal of the Telecommunications Law

CIO Insider Team | Friday, 22 December, 2023
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More than 50 domestic and international organizations such as Signal Foundation, Access Now, Eko, Digital Rights Watch, Freedom House, and others, and seven digital rights activists have written to the government requesting the withdrawal of the Telecommunications Act 2023.

In a December 21 letter to Union Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnav, these organizations say the bill undermines encryption and strengthens the government's unchecked powers, and improves oversight without independent oversight.

The bill would threaten this fundamental element of allowing people to communicate freely and privately in an environment of ever-increasing surveillance and cyberattacks, and perhaps even such secure services choosing not to operate in India, harming everyone.

The Telecom Bill, 2023, passed in the Lok Sabha, was also passed in the Rajya Sabha. The new bill approved by the president replaces three old laws the Telegraph Act of 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act of 1933.

Demanding the withdrawal of the bill, these organizations said in their letter that without significant changes to the current version of the bill, India has missed the opportunity to show leadership among democracies in the digital age, which is framed by the telecom reform.

Senior government officials that concerns about mandatory interception of messages on OTT applications are baseless and the government will address these issues in the Digital India Bill as presented

It also authorized that the Government may direct any message or class of messages to any person or group of persons or from any telecommunications device or class in such public emergency or the interest of public safety telecommunications equipment must be disclosed in a form that the official appointed by the state can understand.

However, the government tried to play down concerns about the expansion of government surveillance powers. Senior government officials that concerns about mandatory interception of messages on OTT applications are baseless and the government will address these issues in the Digital India Bill as presented.

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