Tata seeks probe by skilled agency into leakage of Radia tapes

 Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata has sought a probe by a ''skilled'' independent agency into the leakage of controversial tapes containing conversations of Corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with him and others, saying the probe conducted so far ''hardly inspires public confidence''.

Tata, who filed an affidavit before the apex court, said the government and its agencies had failed to protect the secrecy of the tapped conversations and an independent probe was required as the wire tap was done at a "fairly high level" in government departments.

"On this account (leakage of tapes), the department, which conducted the wire tap, has been under the scruitiny. Since this is all done at a fairly high level within the depatments, for any inquiry to be fair and transparent, it would have to be by done by an outside agency skilled in making investigations -- this has not been done," Tata said in his affidavit. "There is an indelible impression that the inquiry may well exonerate the department and pass the blame for this lapse to outsiders," Tata added.

He said "the inquiry conducted so far is not of that quality as would inspire public confidence on account of the structure of the inquiry".

Tata said the intercepted phone calls were a property of the government and its disclosure was violation of his right to privacy and also the Officials Secrets Act.
"The petitioner respectfully asserts that his rights to privacy has been violated by the failure of the Union of India and its authorised agents to adhere strictly to the required safegaurds for protecting a citizen's right to privacy," he said. "The petitioner (Tata) submits that the unauthorised disclosure of the intercepted material is in blatant violation of the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, whether intercepted by the government directing or by a service provider as its agent.
"The data collected and information contained therein is the property of the government and it is submitted that any unauthorised disclosure thereof constitutes violation of Section 5 (Wrongful communication of information) of the Official Secrets Act," the affidavit stated.

Tata also sought a copy of the government's probe report, submitted before the bench in a sealed cover, saying the government is duty-bound to supply a copy to him.

"I am advised to state that any material placed before the court to deny the assertion that there has been violation of such a right by the agencies of the Union can only be so placed after it is made available to the petitioner. "The petitioner submits that the Union of India is duty- boud to make available a copy of the said report to the petitioner as it appears to contain various conlcusions and observations which may have a material bearing on the adjudication of the present petition.," he said.

He said the a copy of the report was needed to enable him decide his further steps.
Based on Tata's plea in the affidavit, the apex court had yesterday sought a response from the government on whether it could share the probe report on leakage of the tapes with him.

The court granted three weeks time to the government to file its reply and posted the matter for further hearing on March 27.

Earlier, the government had expressed reluctance to share the report on the ground that the investigation was still in progress to find out how the tapes of Radia's conversations, tapped by the Income Tax Department, got leaked.

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