Two connected petitions on the search and seizure of electronic devices by law enforcement agencies were unbundled by the Supreme Court yesterday. A two-Judge Bench comprising Justices S.K. Kaul and A.S. Oka was hearing the two tagged petitions on the matter, one filed by a group of academics, and another by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP). The Indian government was directed to file a counter-affidavit to FMP's petition within eight weeks. A subsequent rejoinder may be filed within four weeks after. The matter will be listed for hearing after twelve weeks. What did the academics originally say?: The academics argued against the unchecked powers of such agencies while searching for and seizing devices, warning that the threat of academic work stored on these devices being damaged is "considerable". What did the media professionals originally say?: The FMP petition argued that the contents and passwords of a seized device are protected by the right against self-incrimination. FMP further requested the Court to acknowledge these actions as breaches of privacy rights, calling for a model law to be drafted to ensure that they are consonant with fundamental rights. Why do the cases matter?: Seizing electronic devices is increasingly becoming par for the course when investigating alleged offences in India. In doing so, the accused may be asked to hand over their passwords to unlock the devices—a violation of their right against self-incrimination, as courts have recently observed. This may also amount to violations of the individual's right to privacy, as the petitioners in both cases…
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