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The Delhi High Court today dismissed a petition seeking formulation of guidelines on “tracing, tapping and surveillance” of phone calls after recording that there were enough guidelines in place to govern the issue.
Taking note of the Central Government’s affidavit in the plea, a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar observed that the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and its Rules provided for the mechanism of phone surveillance.
Further recognizing the existence of a ‘Standard Operating Procedure‘, the Court said,
“We see no reason to give further guidance to draft a policy ...”
With respect to the prayer for constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate “abuse of power” by unnamed CBI officers who misuse their power for illegal phone tapping, the Court stated,
“We see no reason to form SIT…”
The petition was preferred by advocate Sarthak Chaturvedi.
In its affidavit, the Central Government had informed the Court that interception of telephone calls by law enforcement agencies was carried out in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, or preventing incitement to the commission of an offence as defined in Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act.
The Court was further informed that the records pertaining to interceptions were destroyed by the relevant competent authority every six months, unless these were likely to be required for functional requirement.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had also supported Centre’s stand. It had claimed that calls were intercepted after following the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act and Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951 and obtaining necessary authorizations.