Tuesday, 29 March 2011

New rules being drafted to govern phone tapping

The Government is planning to introduce new laws with regard to tapping phone calls and intercepting e-mails in bid to make the system more robust. This includes making it mandatory for law enforcing agencies to destroy all recordings of individual conversation that are not relevant to the investigation. The new rules will also make it difficult for units monitoring tax frauds under the Department of Revenue to tap into individual's phones unless it is a case of public emergency.

This was discussed at meeting held by the Prime Minister with top officials from Home Ministry, Department of Telecom and Department of Revenue. An Inter-ministerial Group (IMG) has been formed to finalise the rules.

“Authorised agencies should review information available on intercepts at periodic intervals as directed by the Home Secretary and must destroy parts of transcripts that are not relevant to their work. The entire conversation or message is not to be retained by the intercepting agency,” states an internal note circulated for the IMG.

This assumes importance in the light of recent controversy over leakage of the Niira Radia tapes, which had recordings of high profile journalists, politicians and corporates with the lobbyist. Phone lines of Ms Radia were tapped by the tax authorities and about 800 conversations got leaked to the media.

The note states that the power given to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to request for phone tapping may be reviewed or withdrawn. Other units under the Department of Revenue may put in a request for phone tapping through a high ranking official to the Ministry of Home only in case of public emergency. “Authorisation given to CBDT to conduct telephone surveillance may be reconsidered by the Home Ministry. It may either be removed or conditions put regarding the extant of surveillance allowed. Other agencies under the Revenue Department may be allowed to continue with their present authorisation but they should be strictly directed to use such surveillance only when a public emergency or public safety, as defined by the Supreme Court, is involved,” the internal note said.

(Source from:  business line)

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