Radia tapes: Tata slams govt stand

Ratan Tata alleged the govt remained least bothered about the violation of an individual`s privacy.

Updated: Jan 11, 2011, 21:22 PM IST

New Delhi: Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata
has criticised in the Supreme Court the government`s
"lackadaisical attitude" on the leakage of his tapped
telephonic conversations with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia,
alleging it has remained least bothered about the violation of
an individual`s privacy in the entire episode.

He voiced the criticism in an affidavit filed in the
court in response to the government`s reply to his petition,
seeking protection of his right to privacy, linked to the
citizens` fundamental right to life.

"Petitioner (Tata) is seriously concerned about the
lackadaisical attitude of the government on standing by and
allowing purloined material of this kind to be freely
distributed and published without taking any step to retrieve
it or to find out the source of leakage," said Tata in his

He said failure to protect his tapped conversations
from being leaked and letting it reach outsiders "was not a
matter of many great moments in law".

Tata pointed out that the Centre`s affidavit to the
apex court "gives the impression that it is the perception of
the government that while protecting such wiretap material is
required by the rules, the failure to safeguard such material
leaking out and reaching the hands of outsiders does not
warrant any step on the part of the government to retrieve
it" or to probe as to how the leak occurred.

Tata has also expressed reservations against the
growing practice of intercepting telephonic conversation of
individuals to probe cases involving violation of tax laws
while the provision was originally used only to investigate
serious offences involving the security of the state.

The government in its affidavit has admitted that "not
only this power of tapping telephones is being exercised where
there is a compelling need to prevent the commission of
serious crime which impinges upon the security of the state,
but it has been widely extended even to prevent violation of
tax laws," said Tata in his affidavit.

"The present petition does not seek to raise the
validity of this extension of the power to wiretap to the tax
authorities," said Tata adding, the government, however, must
take responsibility to ensure that such material is not leaked
to public domain.

While raising the "serious issue of invasion of
privacy", Tata also questioned the journalistic ethics in
publishing loose conversations between two individuals.

"Publishing transcript of conversations between two
individuals ... without ascertaining the truth of the contents
of the conversation but also without differentiating between
loose conversation (more in the nature of gossip) and matters
that may be considered as admission against the person
indulging in the conversation can hardly be justified on the
high principles of freedom of press," said Tata.