Government rules do not allow market regulator SEBI to access call records and tap phones, the Parliament was informed today.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has been requesting the government for quite some time to give it access to call data records of people being investigated by it in cases of possible violation of capital market regulations.

SEBI has often cited lack of its access to call records as a major handicap in its investigation processes. While its request has been pending for quite some time, the government has assured it of some arrangement in this regard.

In a written reply to a Lok Sabha question on this matter, Minister of State in Finance Ministry Namo Narain Meena said: “The extant Rules of the Government of India do not allow SEBI to access the call records and tap telephone conversations.”

The minister was asked whether SEBI has been given powers to access the call records and tap the telephone conversations of persons or entities under investigation.

SEBI Chairman U.K Sinha had earlier said that the market regulator has asked the government to provide it access to call data records of those suspected to have violated insider trading and other norms in the securities market.

“We have made a request to the government and they have assured us about it. We are hoping that it will happen soon, but so far it has not happened,” Sinha had said.

In reply to another question about powers and functions of SEBI with regard to carrying out of investigations, the Minister informed the Lok Sabha that it has powers of a civil court for seeking discovery and production of books, summoning and enforcing attendance of persons, inspection of records and issuing commission for examination of witnesses or documents.

SEBI has powers of “calling for information from, undertaking inspection, conducting inquiries and audits of the stock exchanges, mutual funds, other persons associated with the securities market, intermediaries and self-regulatory organisations in the securities market”, Meena said.

SEBI’s powers also include seeking information and record from banks or other entities constituted by or under central, state or provincial acts, regarding securities transactions being investigated or inquired into by the market regulator.

Besides, he said SEBI might also take measures to undertake inspection of any book, or register, or other document or record of a listed or to be listed company, where it has “reasonable grounds to believe that such company has been indulging in insider trading or fraudulent and unfair trade practices relating to securities market”.