Baloch leader Brahumdagh Bugti’s request for asylum in India has prompted calls for a uniform and apolitical asylum law. That would be a mistake. Asylum has always been a diverse institution, resistant to homogeneity and friendly to political dissidents. Last winter, three asylum bills were introduced in Parliament, including one by Shashi Tharoor, but none of them would protect Mr. Bugti. Denying the government the ability to make sovereign decisions about who can receive India’s asylum is counterproductive. We need a nuanced law which recognises that asylum and refuge need not overlap.
[Excerpt] The Central Monitoring System (CMS) is an attempt to co-opt the interface between government and the purveyors of communications; because if the state cannot control communications, it cannot control society. It represents the natural culmination of the progression of Indian surveillance. However, in its present state, Indian surveillance law is unable to bear the weight of the CMS project, and must be vastly strengthened to protect privacy and accountability before the state is given direct access to communications.
On 20 August 2014, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta spoke to me about privacy and surveillance law in India on Lok Sabha Television (LS TV). The Lok Sabha is the lower house of India’s parliament, and LS TV is the state parliamentary broadcaster. The discussion covered constructions of privacy norms, defences to privacy, the Aadhar card scheme – India’s biometric identification project, telephone and Internet surveillance, wiretaps, the identity of rape survivors, DNA collection for family disputes, ‘sting’ journalism, the harm principle, and free speech.
[Abstract] Privacy evades definition and for this reason sits uneasily with law. The multiplicity of everyday privacy claims, and the diversity of their situations, obviates attempts to forge a common definition of privacy. Instead, privacy is negotiated contextually. Privacy is easily recognised in relation to the body; common law protects against bodily violations through punitive sanction. Some communications, such as phone calls and emails, are protected by surveillance laws. Territorial privacy is protected by the law of trespass. Locational privacy is invaded by stalking and police ‘shadowing’. Similarly, other forms of human activity are dissimilarly protected. The constitutional right to privacy, as it is developing in India, implicates only a few of these privacy norms.