Centre for Internet & Society

The Centre for Internet and Society and the Cellular Operators Association of India in collaboration with the Council for Fair Business Practices invite you to a "Privacy Roundtable" at IMC Building, IMC Marg, Churchgate, Mumbai on June 28, 2014, 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.

10:00 – 11:00 Introduction
11:00 - 11:30 Tea
11:30 - 13:00 Discussion
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch
14.00 - 16.00 Discussion
16.00 - 16.15 Tea

Background and Context to the Roundtables

In India, lawful interception of communications may be conducted by the state in three ways: firstly, intercepting telephone calls and other telecommunications may take place under powers listed in the Telegraph Act, 1885 and procedure set out in the Telegraph Rules, 1951; secondly, intercepting written communications transmitted through the postal service or by private couriers may occur under the Post Office Act, 1898; and, thirdly, intercepting, de-crypting, and monitoring email messages and other electronic communications may take place under the Information Technology Act, 1950 and two sets of Rules issued in 2008.

The government’s intention to create a Central Monitoring System to automate the existing process of telephone tapping is significant for a number of reasons. It will bypass private telephone service providers; currently the active cooperation of TSPs is required and compelled in order to intercept and monitor a telephone conversation. This creates an extra layer of compliance activity for TSPs which is cumbersome and expensive. Interception orders from the state often do not comply with the procedure required by law. This uncertainty is compounded by the lack of an indemnity for TSPs.

However, while the CMS will release TSPs from legal liability, it will leave the government free to conduct telephone interceptions in absolute secrecy and without a credible system of oversight and checks and balances. Amongst the world’s major democratic countries, India is alone in refusing to overhaul its telephone tapping regime. The legal requirements of probable cause, judicial sanction, and warrant-based interception – which are followed with exceptions in democracies around the world – are not adequately protected in India.  The same principles also apply to the interception of postal and electronic communications.

There are several intelligence and police agencies in India that conduct interceptions of communications without central coordination. Previous cases in the Supreme Court of India and a few Indian High Courts reveal many cases of improper and even illegal surveillance. The sheer number of interested state agencies, the concerns of inadequate oversight, the lack of a credible legal regime, the constant leaks of private communications, and the poor legal protection given to TSPs and ISPs must be legally addressed.

Information about the Roundtables

The Privacy and Surveillance Roundtables are a CIS initiative, in partnership with the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).  From June 2014 – November 2014, CIS and COAI will host seven Privacy and Surveillance Roundtable discussions across multiple cities in India. The Roundtables will be closed-door deliberations involving multiple stakeholders. Through the course of these discussions we aim to deliberate upon the current legal framework for surveillance in India, and discuss possible frameworks for surveillance in India. The provisions of the draft CIS Privacy Bill 2013, the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communication Surveillance, and the Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy will be used as background material and entry points into the discussion. The recommendations and dialogue from each roundtable will be compiled and submitted to the Department of Personnel and training.

The Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy

In January 2012 Justice A.P. Shah formed a committee to create a report of recommendations for privacy legislation in India. The committee met seven times from January 2012 to September 2012.  The Report is made up of six chapters and begins by reviewing the international best practices around privacy and the relevant Indian jurisprudence. The Report then recommends nine National Privacy Principles to be adopted by each sector in India. The Nine National Privacy Principles reflect international standards, as well as taking into consideration the Indian context. Along with the National Privacy Principles, the Report lays out a regulatory framework for privacy including privacy commissioners at the regional and national level, self regulating organizations at the industry level, and a system of complaints. Finally the report demonstrates how the National Privacy Principles could be used to harmonize existing legislation and practices.

The Draft CIS Citizens Privacy (Protection) Bill 2013

The Centre for Internet and Society has been researching privacy in India since 2010 with the objective of raising public awareness, completing in depth research, and driving a privacy legislation in India. As part of this work, the Centre for Internet and Society has drafted the Privacy (Protection) Bill 2013. The Citizens Privacy Protection Bill contains provisions that speak to data protection, interception, and surveillance. The Bill also establishes the powers and functions of the privacy commissioner, and lays out offenses and penalties for contravention of the Act. The Bill represents a citizens’ version of a privacy legislation, and will be shared with civil society, industry, and government. It is hoped that the review and revision of the Bill will be a participatory process, and thus comments and feedback to it’s’ provisions will be included as annex’s to the Bill.

The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communication Surveillance

These principles were defined in 2013 in response to rapidly changing technologies and surveillance practices. The principles are the outcome of a global consultation with civil society groups, industry and international experts in communications surveillance law, policy and technology, spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation US and Privacy International UK. As technologies that facilitate State surveillance of communications advance, States are failing to ensure that laws and regulations related to communications surveillance adhere to international human rights and adequately protect the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. These principles attempt to explain how international human rights law applies in the current digital environment, particularly in light of the increase in and changes to communications surveillance technologies and techniques. These principles can provide civil society groups, industry, States and others with a framework to evaluate whether current or proposed surveillance laws and practices are consistent with human rights.

Tentative schedule for the Roundtables:

  1. Mumbai – June 28th
  2. New Delhi – July 4th
  3. Ahmedabad/Hyderabad – August 1st
  4. Bangalore – September 5th
  5. New Delhi – October 3rd
  6. Chennai – October 24th
  7. New Delhi – November 7th


  1. Draft CIS Privacy Bill 2013
  2. International Principles on the Application of Human Rights and Communication Surveillance
  3. Report of the Group of Experts on Privacy