House committee all set to endorse a bill allowing intelligence agencies to intercept suspicious conversationsMain opposition has demanded that it should be moved ahead only if there is a guarantee that the provision is not misused.
Lawmakers from the ruling party are strongly advocating to incorporate the provision of taping conversations of “suspects” to what they say strengthen intelligence capabilities to counter "threats to national security, sovereignty and integrity".
The Nepali Congress, which had stood against the provision, is ready to support the bill on the condition that stern measures are adopted to ensure that the provision is not misused.
The opposition has demanded that only the chief of the intelligence agency should have the power to decide whether to intercept suspicious conversations and that too only after providing enough evidence that the move is necessary.
Prepared by the Prime Minister’s Office, the bill says it is necessary to control acts of "secession, espionage, sabotage and subversion" and "protect national sovereignty, national integrity and communal harmony".
Clause 10 of the bill states that audio or audiovisual conversations at the individual or institutional level that are suspicious can be kept under surveillance, monitored or intercepted.
Earlier, the Nepal Congress had demanded that the concerned intelligence agency should mandatorily secure court’s permission to record suspicious conversations.
The committee is set to table the bill in the National Assembly meeting on Thursday after finalising it before the House meeting is held.
Prakash Pantha, a Nepali Congress lawmaker, said the Prime Minister’s Office has announced to come up with a new draft with a provision to ensure the authority of intercepting the calls is not misused.
“Our position depends on the nature of the draft,” he told the Post. “We will reject it if it is not revised.”
The committee’s meeting has been called at 10am while the Upper House is sitting at 1 pm. As the ongoing session has hardly two weeks for prorogation, the government wants the bill to get through the National Assembly on Thursday.
“The committee will decide through the voting if there is no consensus,” Sher Bahadur Kunwar, a member of the committee from Nepal Communist Party, told the Post.
The bill needs to be approved by the House of Representatives once the Upper House endorses it.
Ever since coming to power, the KP Sharma Oli administration has introduced around half a dozen bills including Information Technology and Media Council that could be used to shrink civic space and curtail freedom of expression and press freedom.