'Illegal collection of MPs' CDR is breach of privilege'

Examining the alleged surveillance of mobile phones of senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley in 2013, Rajya Sabha Privileges Committee on Tuesday said that illegal collection of call records of MPs amounts to breach of privilege only if it hinders their functioning.

However, in a latest report tabled in the Upper House, the panel directed Delhi Police to pursue the criminal cases filed in the matter involving Jaitley with all sincerity so that the guilty could be punished.

In its previous report, it had termed the unauthorised access of call data records of Jaitley as not breach of parliamentary privilege. The panel revisited the report after a section of MPs found the findings not satisfactory.

The Attorney General told the panel that illegal or unauthorised collection of call data records (CDR) of MPs would constitute surveillance which would amount to breach of parliamentary privilege.

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However, the Committee said that it was of the view that this "should be accepted with the caveat that if unauthorised collection of CDR of a sitting Members of Parliament causes any hindrance or obstruction in their Parliamentary functions, it would tantamount to breach of privilege besides being a breach of privacy under the criminal law".

In a separate matter, the panel found the Editor-in-Chief of Sudarshan News TV Channel "guilty of committing gross breach of privilege and contempt of the House by his offensive conduct" against the then Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agrawal.

"The committee was of the view that his sole intention was to take undue advantage of the situation and hog the limelight by criticising Parliament and the member and get publicity in the process," it said.

The panel also said that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Ministry should issue guidelines to all TV channels asking them to be cautious while telecasting and reporting the proceedings of Parliament and to desist from re-telecast of expunged portions of the proceedings.

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