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Here’s How Indian Government Justifies Search and Seizures of Devices

Indian govt argues that individual rights claimed in the present case are to be necessarily balanced with the larger societal rights

The Centre doubled down on the position that the right to privacy is not absolute in last week's response to a Supreme Court petition critiquing the search and seizure of electronic devices. The petition filed by a group of academics at the Supreme Court critiqued the unchecked power with which investigative agencies search premises and seize electronic devices. The threat of academic work stored on these devices being damaged as a result of seizure is "considerable", added the petitioners. "Individual rights claimed in the present case is to be necessarily counter balanced with the larger societal rights as well," submitted the Centre in a counter affidavit viewed by MediaNama. "[With this interpretation] Article 21 rights [to privacy] are subject to 'procedure established by law'." Search and seizures of electronic documents falls under this exemption and are reasonable and duly proportionate, observed the Centre. The Indian government is well within the judicial limits established by Puttaswamy v Union of India (2017) as these practices further a legitimate state interest, it added. The Centre's response argued that substantial procedures were also in place to address the petitioners' concerns regarding search and seizures. Whether this procedure is always followed remains to be seen—recently, a Delhi court ruled that the accused in a Central Bureau of India (CBI) investigation cannot be compelled to share the passwords for their seized devices, as doing so would violate their right against self-incrimination. Why it matters: The reams of case law cited in the counter affidavit reinforce the government's argument…

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