The ghost of phone tapping in Indian Politics has returned, this time in Rajasthan. After releasing three audio clips by the congress, BJP has alleged the state government of doing illegal phone tapping. BJP spokesperson Sandeep Patra has asked for a CBI probe. Patra accused, chief minister Ashok Gehlot of “manufacturing lies” and undertaking “illegal measures like phone-tapping” to save his government. He said that, “The Congress has a history of phone-tapping.”
On the other hand Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati named Ashok Gehlot, a serial offender and alleged him of acting illegally. Mayawati called for President’s rule in the state. While the Congress has refuted the claims of phone tapping and said that the audio clips were sourced from the social media.
Political History of Phone Tapping
Tapping of phones for political gain is illegal but not rare in Indian Politics. Be it in 2010 phone tapping case between then IPL Chief Lalit Modi and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, in 2017 Kerala, in 2018 Karnataka or in 2019 Chhattisgarh. Even the phones of Rashtrapati Bhavan had also been bugged.
Last year hearing the matter of Chattisgarh Phone Tapping case, the Supreme court of India had remarked that, ‘No Privacy Left For Anybody’. The bench of justices Arun Mishra and Indira Banerjee, had sternly said that, ‘‘what is the need to do (things) like this? No privacy is left for anybody. What is happening in this country?”
Procedure for Phone Tapping:
Though the country has seen various infamous instances of phone tapping, but there are laws which allows phone tapping in certain circumstances legal. Under entry 31 of the Union List of the Constitution and Entry 7 of the Federal List of the Government of India Act, 1935, telephonic along with other communication devices is mentioned. And both the Central government and the State government has the right to tap phones of people under Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraphic Act, 1885.
- Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, empowers the central government or a state government to intercept, monitor or decrypt or cause to be intercepted or monitored or decrypted, any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of the country.
- This power of interception is to be executed as per the provisions of law, rules and Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs), approved by the Union Home Secretary in case of central government and by the Home Secretary of the state concerned in case of the state government.
- Only ten agencies are authorised for phone tapping: (i) Intelligence Bureau, (ii) Central Bureau of Investigation, (iii) Enforcement Directorate, (iv) Narcotics Control Bureau, (v) Central Board of Direct Taxes, (vi) Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, (vii) National Investigation Agency, (viii) R&AW, (ix) Directorate of Signal Intelligence and (x) Delhi Police Commissioner.
- Such authorities must seek permission from the Home Ministry before they tap the calls of the person. In the application to the Ministry, the agency has to mention reasons and the needs for tapping the phone calls. In the case of State, the permission has to be taken from State Home secretary.
- Unauthorized tapping or interception is a violation of the right to privacy, and the aggrieved party can file a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission.
- The aggrieved party can also file an FIR against unauthorized tapping.
- The aggrieved person can also move to the Court against the person doing any unauthorized act under Section 26 (b) of the Indian Telegraphic Act.