SC refuses to hear plea for probe into Chinese surveillance, asks petitioner to make representation

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New Delhi, Feb 3 (PTI) The Supreme Court Wednesday refused to entertain a plea seeking directions to the Centre to investigate the alleged surveillance of high ranking personalities, including the President, the Prime Minister and some sitting judges of the apex court, by China and also about data theft of citizens by Chinese digital money lending apps.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said that the petitioner organization, Save Them India Foundation, can make representation to the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Finance Ministry on these issues.

“These are sensitive and high security matters. You make a representation to the appropriate ministry,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

Advocate Vishal Tiwari, who appeared for the petitioner, argued that China-based micro lending apps are operating in the country without any proper guidelines by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and this is violating the citizens’ right to privacy.

“You make a representation to Home Ministry or Finance Ministry,” the bench said.

Tiwari, while referring to the Digital India campaign, stressed on the need for proper cyber security and said that there were media reports about China indulging in spying and surveillance of several top functionaries in the country.

After the top court said that the petitioner can make representation to the government, Tiwari said he would withdraw the plea.

The bench allowed him to withdraw the plea with a liberty to make representation to the authorities.

In its plea, the organization had sought a direction to the government to inquire into the alleged data theft of citizens committed by China operated digital money lending apps and register FIR for cyber terrorism and cyber-crime under the relevant provisions of the Information Technology Act 2000 and the Indian Penal Code.

The plea had also sought a ban on China operated digital money lending apps in India.

It had said that authorities should be directed to ensure that lending institutions shall not use any kind of illegal, violent or harassing methods against the borrowers for recovery of loan installments.

“The China’s espionage system and spying upon India has developed a new threat and fear of losing our secret valuable information, public policies, defence policies, data hijacking and data theft,” it had alleged, adding, “This fact has come to light that China is monitoring the personalities holding the key post in our country.” Referring to a media report, it had claimed that a China-based company has been tasked with monitoring of over 10,000 prominent citizens including the President, the Prime Minister and others in the country.

It had said that this development had come to light at a time when India and China are engaged in a stand-off since last year in Ladakh and adjoining areas.

“A threat has emerged to the unity, integrity and sovereignty of our nation by the monitoring and putting our citizens and influential persons on surveillance by China. The data hijacking and data theft may bring danger to our national security and in future it may lead to disastrous effect,” the plea had alleged. PTI ABA ABA RKS RKS