BJP against phone tapping powers to Lokpal

Despite agreeing with Jan Lokpal Bill, Jaitley mentioned that phone tapping is permitted only under specific purpose.

New Delhi: BJP, which largely supported the contentious issues raised by Anna Hazare-led civil society in Parliament on Saturday, struck a discordant note on a suggestion that the Lokpal be given phone-tapping authority.

"There is a suggestion that the authority (Lokpal) will be entitled to tapping phones. This is the area, where I disagree seriously," Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha.

He said, even in the existing set-up, the power to tap phones should be "exercised with great caution".

Opposing a suggestion from the civil society, Jaitley said, "Are we going to create institutions, which are now entitled to start tapping phones of even the Prime Minister, Ministers and other senior functionaries?"

He said, that tapping of Prime Minister`s phones should not be allowed as it could compromise national security. (PM) may have thousands of conversation with Finance Minister, Army Chief, Foreign Secretary, and CBI among others, he said.

In an apparent reference to recent cases of phone tapping, Jaitley said, "we are making mockery of democracy....We cannot make a virtue out of it."

He cited a Supreme Court judgment, which allowed phone tapping only in case of national security.

Jaitley also mentioned that phone tapping is permitted under the provisions of Indian Telegraph Act, but for specific purposes.

Currently, the Centre or state governments are empowered to order interception under the Indian Telegraph Act 1885.

Telephone tapping is illegal otherwise.