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Phone tapping a serious issue: court

Tuesday 28 February 2006

Legal Correspondent

Particulars about phone tapping demanded from all service providers

We have a general concern on the issue, says Supreme Court Delhi Government, Centre given time to file detailed affidavits

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday, while passing an order restraining the media from making public the contents of any illegally tapped phone conversations until guidelines were formulated, expressed concern over the issue.

The Bench told Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati: "It [phone tapping] is a serious issue. We are not concerned with the petitioner but we have a general concern on the issue."

To a question from the Bench, Mr. Vahanvati said: "The Centre authorises some investigative agencies such as the IB, DRI, Narcotic Bureau, Enforcement Directorate and CBI to tap telephones."

Details sought

The Bench told Mr. Vahanvati and Additional Solicitor General Gopal Gopal Subramanian: "We want particulars from every service provider on tapping. We need their answer in `Yes’ or `No’ whether they were involved in tapping any telephone."

However, the Bench granted time to the Delhi Government and the Centre to file detailed affidavits on the number of telephones tapped indicating details regarding "in how many cases was permission taken within the stipulated 15 days after the telephones were tapped and in how many cases no such permission was taken at all."

Committee constituted

Earlier, Mr. Subramanian, appearing for the Delhi Police, submitted that a Committee presided over by the Delhi Chief Secretary had been constituted to look into the matter.

Counsel Prashant Bhusan, speaking for the general public, said he had heard the conversations on the CD. He opposed the restraint order, saying the right to privacy could not include conversations for illegal dealings. He said most of the conversations contained in the CD related to shady deals.

The Bench, while directing the Centre and the Delhi Police to file detailed affidavits, also issued notice to telecom service providers MTNL, BSNL, VSNL, Reliance Infocomm, Idea Cellular, Tata Indicom, Bharti Televentures Limited and Hutchison Essar Limited.

The Bench, however, ordered deletion of the name of the Congress (through its president) as a party and posted the matter for further hearing on March 20.

See online : The Hindu

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