Monday, February 14, 2011

The Dark Truth Of Phone Tapping In India

As per a recent media report, Indian government agencies were tapping more than one lakh phones every year. The figure is even more and there are many lakhs phone taps that are simply not within the knowledge of public or are not reported at all.

Further, the veil of secrecy and exemptions that Indian government claims from disclosing even the basic number of phone taps every year makes the task of their estimation even more difficult. The truth is that phone tapping in India is not constitutionally performed.

This entire problem is arising because we do not have a constitutionally valid lawful interception law in India. For instance, for engaging in telephone tapping we have India Telegraph Act, 1885. The Telegraph Act does not meet the requirements of present times and is a legislation that immediately requires to be repealed. In fact, the Telegraph Act is not a constitutional piece of legislation and it deserves to be struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of India.

Further, to escape the scrutiny of courts, telecom companies have been hiring private individuals for tapping purposes. These private individuals even do not bother to get proper authorisation from the competent authority and have been indulging in phone tapping on the basis of forged documents.

While none can deny the importance of phone tapping for law enforcement and genuine security reasons yet phone tapping in India is being done for all sorts of purposes. Civil liberties like privacy rights and right to speech and expressions have no value when it comes to phone tapping in India.

Even Supreme Court’s guidelines regarding phone tapping are not followed. In fact, it is a mistake on the part of Supreme Court to just give guidelines and leave everything upon Executive to do. Nothing short of declaring the Telegraph Act as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court would serve the purpose.

Till the Telegraph Act is not declared unconstitutional, the Parliament would not enact a constitutionally sound lawful interception law in India. The truth is that India urgently needs a lawful interception law and Executive and Parliament are deliberately ignoring this issue.