Radia tapes: SC pulls up IT dept, CBI for not acting on info

"It is not a happy situation that action will be taken only after court's order," the bench said.

Updated: Aug 01, 2013, 18:58 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday pulled up the Income Tax department and CBI for not taking action in the last five years on information gathered from tapped phone conversations of Niira Radia with corporate honchos, politicians and others, saying it is "not a happy situation".

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan asked the authorities why they did not take action as the tapes contain talks "far beyond" personal conversations.

"The tapping was done five years ago, what have they (government authorities) done so far? Were they waiting for court's order?," the bench asked.

"It is not a happy situation that action will be taken only after court's order," the bench said.

After going through the analysis of the conversations, done by a six-member special team constituted by the apex court, the bench said action should have been taken earlier.

"After this report, a lot of things have come to light. We thought the conversation was pure personal but the analysis says it is far beyond that," the bench said.

It asked the IT department to place before the bench all original records pertaining to authorisation of tapping of Radia's phones.

The court directed the IT department, which had tapped Radia's phones, to apprise it whether the officers entrusted with the task of tapping had informed their seniors about the contents of the recording and whether CBI was informed about criminality with regard to matters referred to in the conversations.

The bench directed the IT department to comply with its order by August 6 when the matter will be taken up for further hearing.

The court was hearing a plea of an NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation seeking the court's direction to the government to make the conversations public.

Additional Solicitor General A S Chandiok submitted the IT Department cannot make it public and if anyone wants the contents of the tapped conversations, then he may seek information under the RTI Act.

Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Ratan Tata who had approached the apex court for a direction not to make public his private conversation with Radia, said a proper mechanism needs to be in place to prevent misuse of phone- tapping and Central Vigilance Commission should be involved in it.

The conversations were recorded as part of surveillance of Radia's phone on a complaint to the Finance Minister on November 16, 2007 alleging that within a span of nine years she had built up a business empire worth Rs 300 crore.

The government had recorded 180 days of Radia's conversations--first from August 20, 2008 onwards for 60 days and then from October 19 for another 60 days. Later, on May 11, 2009, her phone was again put on surveillance for another 60 days following a fresh order given on May 8.

The apex court had said yesterday that it would direct a CBI probe into several aspects arising out of the tapped telephonic conversations of the former corporate lobbyist.

The apex court, which perused the report and transcripts prepared by its specially constituted team of investigators, had said "some of the items highlighted will become the subject matter of investigation".

The analysis of the conversations was done by a six-member special team constituted by the apex court and comprising five from CBI and one from Income Tax department.

The special team was set up by the apex court on February 21 to examine the contents of tapped telephonic conversations of Radia.