SC agrees to hear PIL on intel agenciesí powers

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a plea that has questioned the very basis of policing powers being exercised by Intelligence Bureau, Research & Analysis Wing and National Technical Research Organisation in the absence of statutory provisions.

"Can you have a police without the Police Act? Can there be any power or authority without a law to regulate them? These intelligence agencies have several policing powers. They can tap anybody's phone. How can these agencies exercise policing power without there being statutes for them?" questioned senior advocate Anil Divan.

A Bench led by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir was hearing a PIL, seeking regulation of the intelligence agencies in line with the supervisory mechanisms available in the US and UK.

Seeking to bring the agencies under an Act to be passed by Parliament and to ensure they are not misused by the government, the plea by NGO CPIL claimed that the agencies were acting "without any sanction of the law" and hence violated the rule of law under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Divan and Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, contended that there had to be certain degree of accountability for these intelligence agencies. Bhushan said there had to be "parliamentary and independent scrutiny" of these organisations, which are more often than not misused for political purposes. The Bench, however, said that a court could not direct the government to have agencies in a particular model since it was a policy matter.

Divan submitted that the SC was not required to go strictly by the prayers made in the PIL. The Bench then agreed to hear the counsel on the issue and posted the matter for February 11.

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