No retrieval of leaked tapes possible: Govt in SC

Last Updated: Friday, December 10, 2010 - 22:14

New Delhi: Government on Friday turned down
in the Supreme Court the plea of Tata Group Chief Ratan Tata`s
for steps to stop the publication in the media of the leaked
transcripts of tapped conversations between him, his corporate
lobbyist Niira Radia and others.

It also made clear that the income tax department
cannot take action against any cell phone service provider who
may have been responsible for "unauthorised supply of
information".
It is for Telecom or any other competent ministry to
look into it, the government said in an eight-page affidavit
filed in the court.

"It is not possible or practical for the government to
take steps to retrieve the various copies of some of the
transcripts which have appeared in the print media or in the
electronic media and which are being circulated on the
internet," the affidavit said.

The affidavit was filed in response to the notice
issued by the court on Dec two on a petition filed by Ratan
Tata seeking a ban on further publication of the tapes in the
media and action against those responsible for leaking them.

The government maintained that 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.

It was also alleged that she was an agent of foreign
intelligence agencies and she was indulging in anti-national
activities.

"Secrecy and security have been maintained and the
integrity and safety of the data in electronic form have been
ensured through proper checks in the systems through which the
recordings have taken place," the Government said in the
8-page affidavit.

While maintaining that electronic intercepts made by
the income tax department had never in the past appeared in
the media, the affidavit said an inquiry was in progress into
the leakage of the tapped conversations between Radia and
others.

"Nevertheless, an inquiry into this matter is in
progress and on the basis of the material available, there is
no reason to believe that the telephone intercepts have been
leaked from the income tax department," the affidavit said.

"It said the petition has been filed on the issue on
the assumption that the authority would be within its power to
wiretap and record such conversation.

"These respondents (Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry
of Finance and Directorate General of Income Tax) have taken
taken every step to ensure that what was recorded by them
stayed in their safe custody," the affidavit said.

Government had last week placed before the apex court
in a sealed cover all the recorded tapes containing the
conversation between Radia and others for its preservation.

In today`s affidavit, government maintained that
there was "no question of the destruction of the records since
the investigation in respect of the action points emanating
from the conversation have not yet been completed by the
income tax department as well as other investigation
agencies."

However on action against those who have leaked the
tapes, government said the income tax department has no no
powers to act against the service providers for "unauthorised
supply of the information".

"As regards the service providers, the income tax
department has no powers with regard to the service provides
and if it is established that any service provider was
responsible for the unauthorised supply of the information,
the ministry of telecommunications or any other competent
will have to take further action," the affidavit said.
It gave 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 proposal
for putting on surveillance was ordered for 60 days from May
11.

The government further said in the affidavit that as
per the laid down guidelines, all law enforcement agencies are
required to share information and records relating to matters
involving national security, terrorism, money laundering,
corruption, tax evasion etc.

"Accordingly, the Income Tax Department shares
information in this case with relevant agencies, viz the
Intelligence Bureau and CBI," the affidavit said.

Following it, the Director General of Income Tax (
Investivation) wrote to Intelligence Bureau on November 16,
2009 saying that some of the intercepted conversations of
Radia were "quite sensitive".

The same day, CBI too wrote to the Director General of
Income Tax (Investivation) saying "certain middle men,
including one Niira Radia of Neosis Consultancy, were actively
involved," and requested the IT department to share with it
Radia`s recorded conversations.

Detailing various communications between the DGIT
(Investigations) and CBI over requets for mutual exchange of
information relating to intercepted telephone conversations of
Radia, the affidavit said CBI was handed over the 1450 call
records containing about 100 hours of talks between May 12,
2009, to July 9, 2009.

Later in May, 2010, CBI was handed over "a copy of the
entire recording consisting of about 5800 calls on the
telephone of Radia for the period from August 20, 2008, to
July 9, 2009."

At this juncture, the affidavit said the first report
on Radia`s tape appeared in the media in April 2010.

"It may be mentioned that in April 2010, it was first
reported in the media that the telephonioc conversations of
Radia and other persons had been intercepted by the Income tax
Department and it had been shared with CBI," said the
affidavit.

PTI



First Published: Friday, December 10, 2010 - 22:14

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