Thursday, February 24, 2011

Official Secrets Act violated by tapes leak: Tata to SC

New Delhi: Tata group chief Ratan Tata on Thursday argued before the Supreme Court that telephone intercepts by law enforcement agencies, including the Niira Radia tapes, formed part of official secrets and their leakage and unauthorised use by media were punishable under the Official Secrets Act. He requested the court to order either the CBI or a similar agency to probe leakage of the 

Radia tapes and their unauthorised use by media breaching his right to privacy. It was necessary because the government’s delayed response in setting up an inquiry by two bureaucrats did not cover the length and breadth of the issues, he said. 
Tata’s counsel and senior advocate Harish Salve told a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly that the law enforcement agencies were rightly empowered to intercept telephones to protect national interest and security, but this could not mean that private conversations be also recorded. The hearing saw the bench saying that the court would seek to reconcile the competing issues inherent in the case. “The court will attempt and try a balance between right to privacy, right to interception and right of public to know.” 
Notably Salve seemed to recognise the problem the agencies might face in leaving out purely personal conversations of somebody they have to eavesdrop on, and suggested that a way out could be found by recording only those which were relevant for the purpose for which tapping was authorised. He said corporate lobbyist Radia’s telephones were intercepted between August 20, 2008 and July 9, 2009. As the mobile licences were allotted in January 2008, it was wrong to assume that the phone interception was done in connection with the 2G spectrum scam, he said. 
He said: “There is a difference between interception and recording. The agencies may intercept all conversations during a specified period but keep record of only those relating to alleged illegal acts for use during investigation and trial.”

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