The Supreme Court has fined the Narendra Modi government Rs 25,000 for not replying to a petition asking for investigating agencies to specify guidelines for seizure, examination and preservation of electronic devices and their contents, the Hindu reported.
The court further directed the government to file its response within two weeks.
The top court was hearing a petition filed by Ram Ramaswamy, Sujata Patel, Madhava Prasad, Deepak Malghan, and Mukul Kesavan.
The petitioners have asked for a series of directions to be given to investigating agencies, including that they must obtain permission from a judicial magistrate before accessing or seizing electronic devices and specifying how the material is relevant or linked to the alleged offence.
In the case of urgent seizures, the petitioners contended that reasons for not seeking permission should be provided to the owner of the device in writing. Further, the owner should not be forced to reveal passwords. Ideally, a copy of the hard drive should be taken and not the original, and the hard disks must be examined in the presence of the owner of the device, Scroll reported.
“The powers of search and seizure, particularly because they engage fundamental rights, ought to be therefore read and supplied with adequate safeguards such that they are not abused to defeat such rights,” the plea stated, according to Live Law.
In a counter affidavit filed at the last hearing in the case on August 5, the government had argued that the plea was not maintainable, according to Scroll. The court wasn’t satisfied, however, and asked for a fresh response.
The Hindu noted that these “developments came against the backdrop of the recent seizures made by the Delhi police during searches on the editors of the Wire and subsequent demand of the news portal for the ‘hash value’ of the seized phones, computers and iPads, and for the cloned copies of the devices to be kept at a neutral place.”
The case will now be heard next December 5.