SC asks Centre to examine Tata's plea on Radia tapes row
The Supreme Court Thursday permitted industrialist Ratan Tata to approach the Centre for disclosure of certain contents of the confidential report placed before it on Nira Radia tapes relating to secret conversations of politicians, bureaucrats and media personnel.
A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhyaya, which allowed the submission of counsel Mukul Rohtagi for the Tatas', asked the Centre to pass an appropriate order as to whether it can disclose the contents or was seeking immunity from disclosure of the information.
The apex court said it will examine at a later stage the alleged role of some private operators in the telephone tapping controversy.
The bench further directed the court staff to re-seal the confidential report placed before it on January 31 by the government and adjourned the matter.
Earlier, the Centre had informed the apex court that the Radia tapes, which found its way into media organisations, were tampered and government agencies were not responsible for its leakage.
Placing a report in a sealed envelope before the bench, the government had said 8 to 10 agencies were involved in the tapping of conversations of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia which included service providers.
The report said the starting and the end point of the conversations do not match with the original tapes, Justice Singhvi had earlier said referring to the report.
He said the report also said officers, who had conducted the probe, do not know who has done it.
"It is quite possible that someone else has done it," the bench said.
Tata had moved the apex court on November 29, 2010, seeking action against those involved in the leakage of tapes alleging such an act amounts to infringement of his fundamental right to life which includes right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.
He had contended since Radia's phone was tapped for the purpose of alleged tax evasion, the tapes cannot be used for any other purpose.
Tata had argued making public his conversations with Radia also violates his right to speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
The petition had also asked the apex court to give a direction to the government and its probe agencies to "retrieve" and "recover" the leaked tapes.
In the wake of 2G spectrum allocation scam, some journals had published taped conversations of Radia with politicians, journalists and industrialists.
Transcripts of some of these tapes had also been posted on various websites, stirring a controversy over the alleged nexus between lobbyists and journalists.
In 2010, the government, while maintaining the issues raised by the Tata chief in his petition relating to the Nira Radia tapes leak require investigation, had turned down his plea for steps to stop the publication in the media of the leaked transcripts.
In February 2011, the government had placed before the apex court a copy of the complaint on the basis of which it started tapping Radia's telephonic conversations with a host of people including politicians, corporate leaders and media personalities.
The complaint was produced by the government in compliance with the December 13, 2010, order passed on a petition filed by Ratan Tata seeking a direction to the government to probe leakage of tapes containing his private conversations with Radia and stop their further publication.
The government had told the court that it begun tapping Radia's telephone on a complaint alleging she was indulging in anti-national activities and was acting as a spy of foreign intelligence agencies.
It had maintained conversations were recorded as part of the surveillance ordered by the Directorate General of Income Tax (Investigation) following a complaint received by the Finance Minister on November 16, 2007, alleging that Radia had within a short span of nine years built up a business empire worth Rs 300 crore.
The government had given the details as to how 180 days of Radia's conversations were recorded from August 20, 2008, onwards for 60 days and the same was further extended from October 19 for a period of 60 days. Later on May 8, 2009, a fresh order for putting on surveillance her phone for 60 days was given from May 11.