Plea to reveal all Niira Radia tapes

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New Delhi, Jan 24 (PTI) The Supreme Court today soughtthe Centre''s stand on a plea for complete disclosure ofcorporate lobbyist Niira Radia''s telephonic conversations withvarious public figures, including ministers and corporateczars, recorded by the government in 2008-09.

On the plea to reveal the Radia tapes, a bench ofjustices G S Singhvi and S S Nijjar issued a notice to thegovernment and sought its response by February 2.

The plea for disclosure of the entire content of Radiatapes was made by civil society Centre for Public InterestLitigation (CPIL), which in its petition named, besides formerTelecom Minister A Raja and Tata conglomerate chief RatanTata, various politicians, ministers, bureaucrats andjournalists as being only a phone call away from her.

The others whom the petitioner named as havinghad conversations with Radia included former Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee''s foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya,Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi''s wife Rajathi Ammaland his daughter Kanimozhi, DMK MP.

Yet others, who according to the petitions, hadconversations with Radia included senior journalists VirSanghvi and Barkha Dutt, bureaucrat Sunil Arora and corporatehoncho Tarun Dass, a former CII president.

The conversations touched on issues like cabinet berths,quid pro quo for securing lucrative government contracts andlicenses in telecom sector, the petition said.

They also included those relating to court rulings andplanting news reports to mould public opinion, the petitionpointed out.

The government had ordered taping of Radia''stelephonc conversations following a complaint to the FinanceMinistry that she had built up a business empire worth Rs 300crore within a short span.

The complaint also alleged she was an agent of foreignintelligence agencies and was indulging in anti-nationalactivities.

"This petition aims to direct the luminosity of publicgaze into the dark and hidden alleys of corruption, a malaisethat has become deep-rooted and widely pervasive and seriouslyails our country," the petitioner said.

It said making public the entire content of the tapeswould "reveal the way the Indian government is run by sellingnational interest for corporate greed and sacrificing long-term public interest for private lucre." .

The petition opposed Ratan Tata''s plea to the apex court earlier against making public the part of his conversationswith Radia.

Tata has opposed disclosure of his tapped conversationswith Radia and has sought a probe into the leakage of thetapes saying it has impinged upon his right to privacy whichis linked to his fundamental right to life, which, he said,included his right to live with dignity.

But the CPIL petition opposed Tata''s plea saying "thequestion of an invasion of privacy cannot arise when suchconversations are to do with fixing and manipulatinggovernment or public affairs and the citizens have a right tobe fully informed of public activities."

The petitioner said "public interest would be seriouslyimpaired if these conversations are withheld from the publicat large."

"The public has every right to know about how itsgovernment functions including the illegalities, howeverembarrassing such exposure might be to the government," thepetitioner said.

It said "if such details are withheld, it would goagainst the very democracy that our Constitution and the Rightto Information Act are trying to protect."

Hinting at corporate and business houses influence ongovernance, the petition said "the large-scale Satyam scam'' in2009 has shown the scale of corruption, fraud by corporateIndia."

"And the present 2G spectrum allocation scam in 2010 isarguably among the most important exposures in recent timesthat reveals the scale and magnitude of corruption acrossvirtually every aspect of government being stage-managed bycorporate houses and their fixers," the petitioner added.

The petitioner also sought the court''s direction tothe government to provide security to "public whistleblowerswho have done a great service by bringing these facts into thepublic domain."

Seeking strengthening of the statutory provisions forprotection of whistleblowers, the petition said failure to doso would seriously undermine our democratic principles. PTIAAC RB RKS RAX

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