Saturday, June 18, 2011

National Intelligence Grid (Natgrid) Project Of India

National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) Project of India is one of the most ambitious Intelligence Gathering Project of India. It has been launched at a time when the Intelligence Infrastructure of India is in a bad shape.

The recent decision of a Government Panel rejecting the proposal to ban Encryption Service Providers like Blackberry, Gmail, Skype, etc has further made the task of Intelligence Agencies of India more tedious. Since the E-Surveillance option has gone now they have to acquire Techno Legal Intelligence Gathering Skills to deal with sophisticated and encrypted communications.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has also given only “Partial In Principle Approval” to NATGRID Project. Since NATGRID Project is not supported by any Legal Framework and Parliamentary Oversight, the “Crucial Stages” of NATGRID Project has not yet been approved by the CCS. Thus, NATGRID Project of India is still in troubled waters as lack of Privacy Laws and Data Protection Laws has put it in doldrums.

Meanwhile similar Security and E-Surveillance Projects have also been launched by Indian Government. These include Projects like Central Monitoring System of India (CMS), Centre for Communication Security Research and Monitoring (CCSRM), Aadhar Project of India, Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), etc. Once again, all these Projects are without any Legal Framework and Parliamentary Oversight.

To make the matter worst, the Law Enforcement Agencies and Intelligence Agencies of India are also practically not governed by any Legal Framework and Parliamentary Oversight. Whether it is Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Intelligence Agencies of India, none of them are presently “Accountable” to Parliament of India.

It is only now that the Draft Central Bureau Of Investigation Act, 2010 and the Intelligence Services (Powers and Regulation) Bill, 2011 have been proposed. They have still to be made “Applicable Laws” in India by Parliament of India. In other words, there is no Legal Framework and Parliamentary Oversight for our Law Enforcement Agencies and Intelligence Agencies as on the date.

In this background, we have to “Proceed With” Projects like NATGRID, CCTNS, CMS, CCSRM, Aadhar Project of India, etc. As far as NATGRID Project is concerned, it is still not within the limits of “Constitutionality”.

NATGRID Project is an essential requirement for robust and effective Intelligence Agencies and Law Enforcement functions in India. The urgent requirement is to ensure that its “Abuses” can be anticipated, prevented and remedied. Further, Natgrid Project of India must also be supported by a Legal Framework and Parliamentary Oversight.

The aim of NATGRID is to ensure a readily available and real time information sharing platform between Intelligence Agencies, Law Enforcement Agencies, etc of India. Information gathering and its timely distribution is also an essential part of Cyber Crisis Management Plan of India. While the NATGRID system is a must for India, yet India has to make it sure that it is not abused for “Political Purposes” and in a manner that goes against the provisions of the Constitution of India.

The scope for misuse is tremendous as NATGRID is planning to link 21 categories of databases maintained by different public and private agencies for ready access by the country’s Intelligence Agencies. There must be “Mechanism” to ensure that this wonderful system may not be abused and nothing is better than Parliamentary Oversight.

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