Telephone tapping is permissible under law: Govt

Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken said in the Lok Sabha that interception of telephones was permissible under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act.

"To ensure that the power to intercept is utilised in a strict legal manner, an institutional mechanism exists at the Centre and at the State level, to both, authorise interception and, to conduct an oversight of the power so exercised," he said in a written reply.

Maken said only the Union Home Secretary at the national level and the State Home Secretary at the state level can allow interception of messages in the interest of public safety or sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the states, public order or for preventing incitement to commission of an offence.

"These decisions are further subject to review by an oversight committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary for the Union of India. Thus such monitoring as may be necessary to fight crime, for national security, or for counter-terrorism efforts is subject to multiple checks and oversight," he said.

The Minister admitted that there were complaints or allegations of unauthorised or irregular phone interceptions but these were largely brought forward as "defence" taken by various accused during their trials, especially when prosecution relies upon such interception as evidence against the accused.

"The government or the state government as the case may be accordingly defends or explains such matter in the courts of competent jurisdiction. Sometimes such individuals in parallel or in addition also move complaints or petitions through the public grievance redressal mechanism which exists at various levels," he said.

Besides, Maken said, government was also aware of various media reports alleging illegal phone tapping of politicians.

Maken's statement came in the midst of a raging controversy over leakage of tapes containing private conversations of some influential people with a corporate lobbyist.

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