Monday, December 13, 2010

SC wants to see complaint about Radia being ‘spy’

Apex Court Argues For Individual’s Right To Dignity New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the government to show it the complaint accusing Nira Radia of espionage and anti-national activities, which has been cited as the justification for intercepting her phone conversations.

A bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly asked attorney general G E Vahanvati to bring the original complaint in a sealed cover for the perusal by judges on February 2 next year. The court, which was hearing veteran industrialist Ratan Tata’s petition alleging that the disclosure of tapes had violated his right to privacy, cautioned against maligning reputations and argued for the individual’s right to protect his dignity.
In an affidavit to the SC, in response to Tata’s petition, Centre had justified tapping Radia’s phones by citing the alleged complaint to the finance minister that “Ms Radia had within a short span of 9 years built up a business empire worth Rs 300 crore, that she was an agent of foreign intelligence agencies and that she was indulging in anti-national activities”.
The complaint cited by the finance ministry is significant because it conforms to the grounds “national unity and integrity, state security, etc” on which phone tapping is allowed. The impression so far was that tabs were put on Radia’s conversations for something less serious — suspected tax evasion.
The hearing in the court on Monday showed that the case was getting tied into the “individual’s privacy versus national security” debate that has intensified in the age of terrorism. The disclosure of assets has been welcomed for the light it has shown on the corporatepolitician-lobbyist nexus and their move to influence who got the crucial telecom ministry after the 2009 polls.
Justices Singhvi and Ganguly, however, struck a strong note of caution. “Let us make it clear that names should not be dragged and images tarnished.


Though phone-tapping power is derived from the 125-yr-old Telegraph Act, there were no regulations on its use till the SC intervened in 1997 and laid down the following safeguards

Phones can’t be tapped without consent of home secy at Centre or state

Application must make prima facie case justifying invasion of privacy

The competent authority cannot grant permission unless he/she records satisfaction that phone tapping is in the interest of:

1 Sovereignty and integrity of the country
2 The security of the state
3 Friendly relations with foreign states
4 Public order or for preventing incitement to commission of offence

The permission will be effective for 2 months, though it can be renewed up to 6 months. If a review panel of senior bureaucrats consider that tapping was unjustified, then the permission will be set aside & the intercepted material will be destroyed

DoT starts sending notices to erring telecom companies

New Delhi: The department of telecom on Monday began issuing show-cause notices to companies which allegedly received licences despite being ineligible to apply or failed to roll out services in stipulated time.
“Show-cause notices to some firms have gone today and we expect to complete the process in the next few days,’’ telecom secretary R Chandrasekhar said. Asked how many notices were issued on Monday, Chandrasekhar declined to divulge details, but said the process would be completed in a few days. He added that the operators would be given 60 days to respond to the notices and each case would be dealt separately.
“After studying their response, a decision will be taken on whether these (licences) need to be cancelled or a penalty should be imposed,” he said. About 200 show-cause notices are expected to be issued by the DoT over the next few days, including for cancellation of 38 licenses for violation of rollout obligations. Another 31 licence-holders who have delayed fulfilling rollout obligations could face penalties adding up to hundreds of crores of rupees.
Interestingly, many of the alleged violations of rollout obligations seem to have coincided with the period that the present Chief Vigilance Commissioner, P J, Thomas was the secretary, DoT, and chairman of the Telecom Commission. All these companies received licenses in January-February 2008 and spectrum during 2008-2009, so their one-year rollout obligation dates fall between mid-2009 and 2010. Thomas was DoT secretary from October 1, 2009 till he took over as CVC in September 2010.
The notices follow a report by the Comptroller & Auditor General that several licensees were ineligible to get licences due to misinformation furnished by them. Telecom regulator TRAI had also recommended cancellation of licences for lapses in roll-out obligations.
“We believe some of the companies might have suppressed facts, might have got an undue advantage in accessing licences,” communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal had said last week.
News agencies quoted Sibal as saying on Monday that erring telecom firms may face up to Rs 7 crore as damages for failing to fulfil rollout obligations as per the Unified Access Service license agreement.” As per the agreement, (DoT) will be entitled to recover Rs 5 lakh per week for the first 13 weeks, Rs 10 lakh for the next 13 weeks and thereafter Rs 20 lakh for 26 weeks, subject to a maximum of Rs 7 crore, he added.

Don’t drag names till we rule on tapes: Apex court to media
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the media not to drag the name of any person figuring in the controversial Niira Radia tapes until the case was decided by it. The court even warned journalists that they could be hauled up if the ‘lakshman rekha’ was crossed. A bench of justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly chided some sections of the media for “distorted” reporting of the hearings on 2G. “ … The image of a person should not be tarnished. All of us know that the most priced right is the right to dignity and none of the right is above it,” the bench observed. But the bench said it valued the role of press as the watchdog of society.

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