Radia tapes: Tata slams govt stand



Radia tapes: Tata slams govt stand 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 affidavit.

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.

PTI