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Indian Govt to come up with Search and Seizure Guidelines by December 14: Supreme Court

The Central Government has assured the Supreme Court that the matter will be expedited by the given date.

What’s the news: The Indian government told the Supreme Court on December 6, 2023 about the creation of a committee to draft guidelines regarding the search and seizure provisions. Responding to the government’s request for additional time, the Court set a deadline of December 14 for the Centre to develop the guidelines.

Some background: The court was hearing  a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) in 2022, asking the Court to regulate the search and seizure powers of the Indian police and the need for a draft legislation in this regard. Following directions by the apex court regarding the need for interim guidelines on November 7, Advocate for petitioner Prasanna S. submitted seven proposed interim guidelines regarding search and seizure activities. Accordingly, the court issued an order stating:

“Whilst a final determination on the issues raised in the present petition is awaited, the following guidelines may be viewed as an interim measure to strike a finer balance between the rights of persons and legitimate needs of law enforcement agencies.”

Court issues six interim measures for search and seizure: The following are the interim guidelines as per the court order:

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  1. Search and seizure of digital devices requires a judicial warrant and can only be exercised for explicitly requested data
  2. Warrantless search will only be allowed if –
  • emergency situation renders impossible to obtain warrant
  • action authorised by senior officer with prior reasons to be recorded in writing
  • search and seizure must be judicially validated within a specified period
  1. Search of contents of devices must be documented and cannot be used for privileged information
  2. The accused cannot be compelled to self-incriminate and share passwords, biometrics, etc.
  3. Agencies must return devices after making copies of necessary material
  4. Non-compliance with guidelines is grounds to exclude the material from being considered in any proceeding

Most of these measures are in agreement with the suggested guidelines by the petitioner although it does not set a hard time limit of 30 days for data retention. Meanwhile, the Central Government assured the Supreme Court that the matter will be expedited by the given date.

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Written By

I'm interested in the shaping and strengthening of rights in the digital space. I cover cybersecurity, platform regulation, gig worker economy. In my free time, I'm either binge-watching an anime or off on a hike.

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