“Is there no privacy left anymore?” Supreme Court on Phone Tapping of IPS officer

“Is there no privacy left anymore?” Supreme Court on Phone Tapping of IPS officer

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today raised concern over authorities ordering the phone tapping of Mukesh Gupta, an IPS officer from Chhattisgarh, observing that the same was in violation of the right to privacy.

The observations were made by Justice Arun Mishra, who was sitting with Justice Indira Banerjee. The Bench was hearing the petition filed by Gupta seeking a transfer of the investigation of the FIRs registered against him by the Chhattisgarh police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The Court was told by Senior Counsel Mahesh Jethmalani, representing the petitioner, that the authorities in the State had tapped Gupta’s phone. The Court took a stern view against this action, remarking,

What is happening in this country? Is there no privacy left anymore?”

The Court questioned Senior Counsel Neeraj Kishan Kaul, arguing for the State of Chhattisgarh, as to which officer had ordered the tapping of Gupta’s phone. Kaul attempted to make a case in defence of the tapping, but the Court sought for an affidavit to be filed on the issue.

Further, the Court was told that one of the lawyers attached with this case, Ravi Sharma, also had an FIR registered against him. It was argued that the same was without any basis. The Court ordered that no coercive action to be taken against Sharma and said,

Everyday something is happening… This is shocking.

The Court has agreed to strike off the name of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, who was also arrayed as one of the respondents in the case. While doing so, however, Justice Mishra told Senior Counsel Vivek Tankha, representing Baghel, that the phone tapping incident reflected badly on the state.

What is this you are doing? This reflects badly on the State.

In his petition, Gupta, who was the Director-General of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW), has alleged persistent persecution by the State machinery allegedly at the behest of Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Senior IAS Officer Anil Tuteja.

The petition states that Gupta was instrumental in unearthing two of the most significant economic offences during his tenure as the head of the EOW – the Nagrik Aapurti Nigam scam and the Alok Agarwal case. The former scam concerned large scale corruption on the part of officers and employees of the State Civil Supplies Corporation, while the Alok Agarwal case pertained to corruption by an Executive Engineer of the Irrigation Department.

The Court has agreed to hear the case next on Friday. In the meanwhile, it has directed that no coercive steps be taken against the lawyer. The officer who ordered for Gupta’s phone tapping is required to file an affidavit explaining why this step was taken.

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