Number of phones, emails tapped by govt doubled in July

A total of 4,350 phone lines and 501 email addresses were under surveillance and fresh orders were received from the Home Secretary recently for monitoring of an additional 3,420 telephones and 465 e-mails during July, says an internal government document.

In addition, about 465 orders were passed for tapping overseas phones, besides 281 orders under Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Act, which permits phone tapping for a limited period of time in case of a public emergency by various intelligence and probe agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, CBI and National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Clearance for snooping into these phones and e-mails was given by a high-level committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary. At a meeting held on September 5, the committee, however, sought more details on some of the orders passed and also asked the Home Secretary to make sure that tapping does not extend beyond the stipulated 180 days.

The Supreme Court had ordered the government to set up this high-level committee to review the phone tapping orders passed by the Home Secretary.

While the central and the state government agencies have the right to tap phones under Section 5 of Indian Telegraphic Act, 1885, recent events of phone tapping have raised issues of privacy.

The government has, therefore, finalised new laws with regard to tapping phone calls and intercepting e-mails in bid to make the system more robust. This includes making it mandatory for law enforcing agencies to destroy all recordings of individual conversations that are not relevant to the investigation.

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