Tata case: Govt has to protect leakage of tapped conversation

Written by: Pti
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New Delhi, Feb 24 (PTI) The Supreme Court today said thegovernment has a duty to protect tapped conversation fromgoing into public domain after Ratan Tata alleged that theauthorities were carrying out a "lackadaisical" probe intoleakage of his telephonic talk with corporate lobbyist NiiraRadia.

The Tata chief said the media should be restrainedfrom publishing and broadcasting unverified conversation asthe right to privacy cannot be violated under the garb offreedom of the press and if that is allowed, then "paparazzi"type of media would develop.

"Today my concern is that governemnt is not givingserious consideration and attention to the issue. There may beother CDs also which can be leaked and brought in publicdomain. There is a lackadaisical approach on the part of thegovernment," senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Tata,told a bench comprising justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly.

He said the government should have taken actionimmediately after the transcripts of the conversation,intercepted by the government agency between Radia and otherswere published in the media for the first time on April 28,last year.

"Government should have been extremely concerned onApril 28, 2010 as to how this got in the media and how it wasleaked?" Salve asked while raising the point that serviceproviders might have leaked the conversation.

"The information is with three government agencies --CBI, IB and IT department -- and fourth might be the serviceprovider. We don''t know from where it leaked," he said, addingthat "the service provider can also leak".

While contending that the conversation cannot be usedfor any purpose other than for which it is intercepted, heaccused the government of preserving all the contents of therecorded talk which was intercepted by the Income Taxdepartment for 180 days.

The advocate said part of the record, which wasprivate in nature, must be destroyed to prevent furtherleakage.

The court shared his view and said that it isgovernment''s right to tap the phone but it is also its duty toprotect such conversation from being leaked.

"They have the right to tap but they also have theduty to protect it and ensure that it is not leaked. They haveto safeguard it effectively," the bench said, adding that "inthe fast-changing time and developing technology, privacy isvirtually disappearing and (is being) diluted".

Critising media for publishing the transcript of theconversations, Salve said that the press cannot interfere withthe right to privacy and it has to be restraind from doing so.

"The inflated notion of freedom of the press needs tobe corrected. If it is allowed to publish such conversation,then paparrazi type of media would develop," he said.

While Salve was making submission against the media,senior advocate Anil Divan, appearing for the Outlookmagazine, which had published the transcripts, contented thatTata was trying to stretch the scope of his petition fromprivate matter to public interest litigation. .

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