Government categorically rejects opposition's phone-tapping allegations

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New Delhi, Apr 26 (ANI): The UPA Government on Monday categorically rejected reports of phone tapping of senior political leaders, including union ministers.

Making a statement in the Lok Sabha, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said no government agency had been authorized to tap the phones of senior political leaders.

"I wish to state categorically that no telephone tapping or eavesdropping on political leaders was authorized by the previous UPA Government. Nor has the present UPA Government authorized any such activity," he said.

Chidambaram said the government has respected and upheld the laws of the land and is committed to upholding the rights of Indian citizens.

"Both this government and the previous UPA Government have respected and upheld the laws of the land," he said.

"We are committed to defending the rights of every Indian citizen, including the right to privacy, and will uphold the rights of the individual citizen enshrined in the Constitution of India," Chidambaram added.

He said the Government has conducted an inquiry into the allegation after it was first published in the Outlook magazine on April 23.

"Government have seen the allegations against the NTRO contained in the story in Outlook magazine," Chidambaram said.

"After the issue of the magazine was available late Friday, April 23, 2010, the allegations in the story were thoroughly enquired into. Nothing has been found in the records of the NTRO or elsewhere to substantiate the allegations," he added.

The Outlook magazine alleged that the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) had indulged in the phone tapping of senior political leaders.

In April 2004, the Government set up the NTRO on the recommendation of a Group of Ministers (GoM).

Chidambaram said intelligence agencies were fully accountable to the Government, and each case of telephone monitoring, approval of the Union Home Secretary had to be sought personally.

"Our intelligence agencies function within the law. They are fully accountable to Government. Under the Telegraph Act, and the Information Technology Act, each case of monitoring of telephone or electronic communications has to be approved by the Union Home Secretary personally," he said.

Chidambaram added that the decision of the Home Secretary is subject to review by an Oversight Committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.

He claimed that the monitoring of telephones is necessary to contain criminal activities and to counter terrorism.

"Such monitoring as may be necessary to fight crime, for national security, or for our counter terrorism effort, is subject to multiple checks and oversight," Chidambaram said.

He assured the House that the government is conducting a further inquiry into the magazine's allegations.

"Further enquiries are being made into the allegations in the magazine. If any evidence is forthcoming or discovered, the matter will be thoroughly investigated by the appropriate agencies," Chidambaram said. (ANI)

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