SC dismisses PIL on US Surveillance of India’s Internet Data; asks Petitioner to move “any other forum”

SC dismisses PIL on US Surveillance of India’s Internet Data; asks Petitioner to move “any other forum”

The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on the issue of US National Security Agency spying on India’s Internet data. The PIL [Writ Petition (Civil) 381 of 2013] was filed against nine internet companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo.

The vacation bench comprising justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi said, “We cannot entertain the petition as an Indian agency is not involved.” The Bench went on to say that the Court cannot direct the Parliament to enact a law to safeguard privacy of citizens against such snooping.

The PIL filed by Prof.  S N Singh, Former Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Delhi sought to initiate action against Internet companies for allowing the US agency to access the information.

The Court directed the petitioner to move any other forum for seeking remedy against Internet companies and the US agency for snooping data resulting in violation of right to privacy. The Court noted, “He may have right to privacy against foreign companies but this right is not covered under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

Speaking to Live Law, Apar Gupta, expert on IT Laws, said “The petition in as much was an Article 32 petition, was limited to a violation of fundamental rights. A petition under Article 226 before a State High Court may have been a better remedy given that even legal rights could have been agitated. Such a broader remedy may have been jurisdictionally proper given the petitioner plead violations of the terms of service by online service providers. However, I disagree with the observations that the Supreme Court could not direct the Union Government to draft a law on privacy and place it before parliament.”


The PIL stated, “As per reports, nine US-based internet companies, operating in India through agreements signed with Indian users, shared 6.3 billion information/data with National Security Agency of US without express consent of Indian users. Such large scale spying by the USA authorities besides being against the privacy norms is also detrimental to national security.”

As reported by Live Law earlier, the petitioner has alleged that it is a breach of national security as government’s official communications have come under US surveillance since the services of private internet firms are being used by the government. He has sought directions to the Centre to “take urgent steps to safeguard the government’s sensitive internet communications” which are being kept outside India in US servers and are “unlawfully intruded upon by US Intelligence Agencies through US-based Internet companies under secret surveillance program called PRISM”.