Radia tapes' scrutiny; SC seeks names from CBI, IT dept & ED

The Supreme Court today sought by tomorrow the names of officials of CBI, IT department and the Enforcement Directorate for setting up of a team to enquire into the tapped telephonic conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with others to ascertain element of criminality.

The apex court also said that it would pronounce its order on February 21 on constitution of a team for probing the contents of tapes having conversations of Radia with various politicians, corporate honchos and others.

"The Additional Solicitor General (Haren Rawal who appeared for the CBI) will be obliged to give the list of officers of all the three organisations (CBI, IT department and ED) by tomorrow," a bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya said.

The bench also asked the ASG to give the names of five CBI officers as he had argued that the team should exclusively consist of members from CBI and involving other agencies would make the task difficult.

However, the plea was opposed by Prashant Bhushan, the counsel for NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation, saying that earlier also, CBI did not DO anything for almost two years after lodging the FIR in the 2G spectrum allocation case.

"My suggestion would be a team, comprising officers from CBI, IT department and the Enforcement Directorate be constituted and an independent person, such as a retired judge or a person who is not from the Government, should either supervise or head the investigation," he said.

During the hearing, the court warned CBI that it would take a very "serious" view of any "leak" of the tapped conversations to the media.

"We will take a very serious view of anybody leaking it...Still there are some people who are leaking something to media. Whether you like it or not, things get leaked ... debates ensue in media and sometimes conviction also takes place...we have different interpretations of freedom of speech and expression," Justice Singhvi said.

"So far nothing adverse has come forward which can say that we have not done our duty. Let our analysis (of tapes) come before the court. It will be our test before this court," the ASG said.

The bench, meanwhile, today also asked CBI to file a report on the probe conducted, so far, in the 2G case.

Rawal said there was a need for segregating the contents of the tapped conversations which are "actually innocuous, not so innocuous and those with elements of criminality".

The court had earlier said that it had gone through some of the tapped conversations and some of them were "innocuous" and hence, the voluminous transcripts were needed to be "scrutinised" to find out elements of "criminality" in them.

It had also made clear that the scrutiny would be limited to those conversations which pertain to criminal element and relating to interest of justice.

Senior advocate Harish Salve had submitted that the "utmost secrecy" be maintained in the scrutiny of transcripts.

He was referring to various conversations that took place between Tata and Radia which are allegedly personal in nature.

"There are some conversations in public domain and those are hardly personal in nature. They relate to illegality and shed significant light on how government decisions are being influenced and how institutions run in the country," Bhushan had said.

Excerpts from the tapes earlier leaked in the media had sparked a political storm with the conversations bringing out the nature of corporate lobbying and also its purported impact on politics.

The income tax department placed transcripts of 5,800 tapped telephone conversations in 50 sealed envelopes.

The conversations were recorded as part of surveillance of Radia's phone on a complaint to Finance Minister on November 16, 2007 alleging that within a span of nine years she had built up a business empire worth Rs 300 crore.

The government had recorded 180 days of Radia's conversations--first from August 20, 2008 onwards for 60 days and then from October 19 for another 60 days. Later, on May 11, 2009, her phone was again put on surveillance for another 60 days following a fresh order given on May 8.

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