Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Can’t disclose info on phone tapping, Trai tells Delhi HC

The Trai, India’s telecom regulator, has challenged in the Delhi high court an order asking it to provide information to consumers on phone tapping of their mobile numbers by government agencies.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao, however, didn’t stay the order while issuing a notice to the RTI applicant, Kabir Shankar Bose, a Supreme Court lawyer, on whose plea the Central Information Commission (CIC) first asked the Trai to reveal information.
In an appeal against the original high court order, the Trai invoked the security of the country to argue it cannot access information on phone tapping. Assailing the interim order of a single judge, Trai said it cannot disclose such details as it could affect the sovereignty and integrity of the country and that phone tapping was carried out by law enforcement agencies.
Challenging a CIC order, which said the telecom regulator has powers to find out from service providers which mobile user’s phone is being tapped, Trai said it can’t access the information from private service providers.

The CIC’s decision was upheld by a single judge HC bench on December 7 saying that Trai has the obligation to get the information from the private body and furnish it to the service subscriber. Trai has, in its appeal, sought the quashing of both orders.
The HC agreed to examine the appeal, but did not stay the earlier order after the lawyers for the RTI applicant assured the bench that Bose won’t push for contempt proceedings against Trai till the time the appeal is pending.

The bench then issued notice to Bose, and asked him to indicate his stand on the plea by the telecom regulator by January 16, 2019, the next date of hearing.

The telecom regulator said that directions for interception of a phone number are issued only by government officials of certain ranks and such information cannot be collated by it or furnished to a consumer, as it would “prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the nation”.
It has also contended that such information, pertaining to security of the nation, is exempt from disclosure under the Right to Information Act.

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