Nearly 9,000 phones and 1,000 e-mails being tapped

Thomas K Thomas New Delhi | Updated on September 16, 2011


Home Secretary passes orders for listening into 3,420 more telephones

As many as 8,736 telephones and 967 e-mail IDs are being snooped into by various investigating agencies in the country. In fact, he number of phone calls and e-mails being tracked has doubled over the last two months.

While 4,350 telephones and 501 e-mails were already being intercepted, orders for additional for 3,420 telephones and 465 e-mails were passed by Home Secretary recently according to internal Government documents.

In addition about 465 orders were passed for tapping overseas phones and 281 orders under Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Act which permits phone tapping for a limited period of time under public emergency.

The order to snoop into these phones and e-mails has been cleared 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 under the Rule 419A. The committee also asked the Home Secretary to make sure that the 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 a right to tap phones under section 5 of Indian Telegraphic Act, 1885, recent events such as the Niira Radia tapes 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 conversation that are not relevant to the investigation. The new rules will also make it difficult for units monitoring tax frauds under the Department of Revenue to tap into individual's phones unless it is a case of public emergency. The power given to the Central Board of Direct Taxes to request for phone tapping has also been withdrawn.

Published on September 16, 2011

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