Thursday, March 10, 2011

Govt draws up new phone tapping norms

New Delhi: Facing flak from the courts on phone tapping, the government is set to rework the rules of interception to mandate tighter oversight, a clear chain of custody for intercepted records and need-based information sharing within agencies.
An inter-ministerial group comprising home, defence, telecom and personnel secretaries, apart from director, Intelligence Bureau, and representatives from the tax department, has been tasked by the Prime Minister’s Office to draw up standard operating procedures to plug loopholes in the existing framework.
In response to a petition filed by Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata group, against the leak of Niira Radia tapes, government had assured the Supreme Court that it had initiated steps to ensure that the private conversations are sifted from those relevant for the purpose of probe and national security.
It also told the court that the new procedure will require taped private conversations to be destroyed. Besides, it also promised to appoint a custodian for the tapes to guard against leaks. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar to devise a more foolproof system. The committee was set up after Chandrasekhar submitted his recommendations. On Wednesday, the home ministry had told Parliament that on an average, it orders between 7,500 and 9,000 interceptions a month with the duration not exceeding six months. This means that the Union home secretary approves anywhere between 250 and 300 phone tappings daily. The revised guidelines will prescribe prior and post-facto approval by the home secretary for any phone tapping.

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