PM asks cabinet secretary to look into Radia tape leak

PM asks cabinet secretary to look into Radia tape leak

The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party hit back at Singh for worrying over the leakage of tapes than at his government’s credibility.

“I am aware of the nervousness in the corporate sector arising out of the powers conferred upon the government authorities to tap the phones for protecting national security and preventing tax evasion and money laundering,” Manmohan Singh said at the inaugural session of the India Corporate Week here.

“While these powers are needed, they have to be exercised with utmost care and under well-defined rules, procedures and mechanisms so that they are not misused,” he said.

The prime minister’s statement comes close on Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata’s public interest litigation in the Supreme Court under Article 32 seeking protection of his privacy as a fundamental right. He also sought the court to direct the government to prevent publication of the conversation which was personal and private.

It is estimated that the Central Board of Direct Taxes (investigation) had taped hundreds of conversation between corporate lobbyist Nira Radia and a number of top industrialists and influential brokers, including journalists. Initially, the authorised phone tapping was done to find out the tax evasion but as authorities stumbled upon conversations having impact on much more sensitive issues, it was extended to a longer period.

Singh said solutions should be looked through technology to prevent access of telephone conversations to systems outside the framework of the government. The government’s effort would be to provide a “level-playing field for private businesses, free from fear or favour.”

Corporate bigwigs, including Tata and HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh and industrialist and MP Rahul Bajaj, have expressed their concern over the matter.

Senior BJP leader L K Advani lashed out at the prime minister for being more worried about the leakage of the tapes than about “the credibility” of his government. Advani wondered why the prime minister should be so concerned about it as to ask the cabinet secretary to report back on the issue in a month’s time.

Addressing a press conference of the NDA, Advani said it was clear from the spectrum controversy that the prime minister was not aware of the developments in his own cabinet.

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