Probe agencies to follow CBI manual for seizure of gadgets till fresh guideline: Govt to SC | India News

The Center on Thursday assured the Supreme Court that its probe agencies will follow the CBI manual on recovery of digital evidence until fresh guidelines are laid down on seizure of digital devices.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju conveyed this to a bench of Justices SK Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia, which was hearing petitions, seeking laying down of guidelines for seizure of digital devices by investigating agencies.

On the last date of hearing, Raju had told the top court that a committee was being set up to look into the prayer and sought more time.

The ASG on Thursday told the bench, “we are deliberating over this and will be coming up with something. But it will take time because we have to consult the forensic laboratory experts and go through existing manuals, like the CBI manual and the Karnataka police manual.”

To the Supreme Court’s query as to how much more time would be needed, the ASG said three months. The court also asked if he would make a statement to follow any of the existing manuals in the meantime. The ASG said the agencies will follow the CBI Manual and CrPC in the meantime.

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Senior Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for one of the petitioners, urged the Supreme Court to issue some interim directions but the court declined to do so. “Not at this stage,” said Justice Kaul adding, “these are not matters that can be finished off like this.”

The bench finally recorded in its order that the Center will come up with something in six weeks. The SC will hear the matter next on February 6, 2024.

The bench was hearing three petitions which contended that probe agencies had unregulated powers in the matter of search and seizure of digital devices containing “much, if not all, of a citizen’s personal and professional life”. They pointed out that currently in India, there are no guidelines regarding when and what may be seized, what can be accessed, what kind of protection is ensured for personal data. The petitioners referred to standard practices followed in other countries in the subject matter and sought similar guidelines.