In yesterday’s post, I had mentioned in passing the lack of any law, legal framework or accountability with regard to intelligence agencies being a major issue. I elaborate on the subject here.
“Parliamentary approval of the creation, mandate and powers of security agencies is a necessary but not sufficient condition for upholding the rule of law. A legal foundation increases the legitimacy both of the existence of these agencies and the (often exceptional) powers that they possess.” In India, various intelligence agencies such as the Research and Analysis Wing, and the Intelligence Bureau are creations of administrative orders, and are not subject to scrutiny by Parliament. This is in direct contrast to the practise of the Legislature’s oversight of intelligence agencies in most countries. Though different countries have different models of exercising such oversight, the common principle – that activities of intelligence agencies should be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, remains uniform.
In the US for example, both the House and the Senate have a Committee which exercises such scrutiny. Both committees have broad powers over the intelligence community. They oversee budgetary appropriations as well as legislation on this subject.
In UK, the Intelligence Services Act of 1994 set up a similar framework for intelligence organisations in the UK, and also set up a mechanism for legislative oversight. The Act set up a Committee which should consists mostly of Members of Parliament.
(Material from this post has been quoted from my blog post on another blog)
The arguments given here highlight a serious problem in our democracy. Intelligence organisations, if not held properly accountable, can be used against the country’s own citizens, as well as for legitimate purposes. In recent times, incidents of illegal phone tapping have also been highlighted by the media. It is thus important to evolve a comprehensive legal framework to regulate the functioning of our intelligence agencies and make them accountable to the people.