MOSCOW, January 24 (RAPSI) - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered UK ministers to provide justifications by early May for the mass surveillance activities of British intelligence agency the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), The Guardian reports Friday.

According to the report, the case – brought by various privacy and human rights advocacy groups, including Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, and English PEN, as well as activist Constanze Kurz – has been fast-tracked by the court.

Specifically, the ECHR asked British ministers to provide submissions explaining why British intelligence should be able to solicit, receive, search, analyze, disseminate, and store data that either they or their foreign counterparts had intercepted, and justifying that such activities were legal and “necessary in a democratic society,” The Guardian reported.

In their claim to the court, the groups argued that the activities at issue were “an inherently disproportionate interference with the private lives of thousands, perhaps millions of people,” and that the programs were lacking in, “effective, independent authorization and oversight,” as quoted by the report.

The Guardian notes that the application was filed in the aftermath of revelations made based on papers leaked to the media outlet by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Snowden, a computer specialist and former contractor for the NSA, was the focus of international attention over the summer after he leaked classified evidence of US government surveillance programs to the media.

He fled to Hong Kong and then to Moscow, where he was granted temporary asylum in Russia in late July despite repeated extradition demands from Washington. He is now living at an undisclosed location in Russia.