Govindacharya moves SC; seeks NIC-based infrastructure for video-conferencing by judiciary, Govt depts

NEW DELHI: Former RSS ideologue K N Govindacharya has moved the Supreme Court raising concerns over use of foreign-based softwares and internet applications for video-conferencing by the judiciary and government departments, saying there is a high security risk.

His plea said it would be best to utilise video-conferencing software provided by National Informatics Centre (NIC) for functioning of government departments and the courts across the country.

The plea claimed that after the first phase of the nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic began on March 25, the government had announced work from home policy for public servants while the courts largely remained shut and only few hearings are taking place through video-conferencing.

It said that most of the courts as well as government departments are using different softwares and internet-based applications like WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom, for work-related communications and video-conferencing.

“It is true that a unique situation requires unique solutions, but the same cannot be at the altar of rule of law. It is submitted that most of the video-conferencing software being used are products of foreign internet companies, with their terms of use mandating transfer of data outside India as well as its commercial exploitation,” the plea alleged.

It said that transfer of data, especially of government and judiciary, outside India might impact national security and affect the sovereignty of the country.

“It is submitted that the transfer of data, which inevitably takes place as a result of use of foreign based video-conferencing software, might assist, directly or indirectly, an enemy or might prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state or friendly relations with foreign states,” the plea said.

Batting for NIC-based infrastructure, Govindacharya said, “In case such sophisticated software made by NIC is not readily available, then suitable software from a private vendor may be audited by NIC, and be certified for usage by the government and the judiciary.”

The plea also sought requisite amendment in the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 and Rules of the High Courts with necessary safeguards for hearing through video-conferencing.

The interim application has been filed in Govindacharya’s pending petition in the apex court on the issue of live streaming of proceedings in cases of constitutional importance.

The top court, in its September 26, 2018 verdict, had allowed live-streaming of court proceedings of cases of constitutional and national importance saying this openness was like “sunlight” which is the “best disinfectant”. (AGENCIES)


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