KATHMANDU, Jan 7: Lawmakers have demanded mandatory court permission before the national intelligence agency can intercept phone calls, messages or other communications by Nepali citizens.
Registering amendment proposals to the Special Service Bill, which was filed at the National Assembly (NA) last month, lawmakers from both ruling and opposition political parties have proposed barring the National Intelligence Department (NID) from tapping phones or watching messages without a court order.
The bill has drawn widespread criticism from political parties and civil society organizations. It would open the way for the government agency to intercept personal communications between private individuals without legitimate cause.
Section 10 of the bill states that “NID can monitor, inspect, intercept or record any audio or audiovisual conservation or signal or data of a suspect or other individual, organization or institution under its surveillance.”
According to the parliament secretariat, 20 lawmakers have registered five separate amendment proposals seeking revisions to various provisions of the bill including its section 10.
A joint amendment registered by Radheshyam Adhikari and three other Nepali Congress lawmakers has proposed separate methods for counter intelligence against surveillance activities of foreign espionage agencies and against Nepali citizens.
“Interception will not be allowed without prior court permission for information collection or counter intelligence activities against Nepali citizens,” reads the amendment registered by NC lawmakers.
Pramila Kumari of the opposition Samajbadi Party has also demanded mandatory court permission beforehand while intercepting the data of Nepali citizens for counter intelligence purposes.
Similarly, Bimala Rai Paudyal of NCP has proposed mandatory court permission for interception over issues of national interest or national security.
NCP lawmaker Ram Narayan Bidari has demanded removal from the bill of the provision allowing the intelligence agency to intercept telephone calls, messages or other electronic communications.
Three separate amendments from NCP lawmakers, one from NC and one from Pramila Kumari of Samajbadi Party have been registered at the parliament secretariat.
Some lawmakers have demanded removing a provision that bars individuals from claiming compensation for loss from undercover intelligence agents. They have also proposed a provision paving the way for any individual to go to court if he/she realizes that any individual’s data has been misused or intercepted in breach of the provisions.
NC lawmakers have demanded scrapping the provision allowing the government to keep rules and regulations under the law secret.