SC to go through transcripts of Niira Radia tapes



New Delhi: Transcripts of 5,800 tapped telephone conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with politicians, corporate honchos including former Tata Chief Ratan Tata were on Tuesday placed by the Government before the Supreme Court which said it will go through them before deciding the course of action.

Excerpts from the tapes earlier leaked in the media had sparked a political storm with the conversations bringing out the nature of corporate lobbying and also its purported impact on politics.

The court took on record the transcripts of entire taped conversations which have been put in 38 sealed envelopes in addition to the 10 already placed before it earlier.

"We will go through the envelopes (containing the transcripts) to decide what course of action can be taken," a Bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya said. The bench said it will go through the transcripts to decide whether it has to be evaluated by an independent team.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Tata Group ex-Chairman Ratan Tata who had moved the apex court on November 29, 2010 for action against those involved in the leakage of the tapes containing his conversation with Radia.

He said the leakage amounted to infringement of his fundamental right to life, which includes right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), also sought a court direction that all conversations should be made public except those which are purely personal in nature. It said the conversations which show illegality or criminality should be thoroughly investigated.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tata, opposed the plea that the tape should be examined by an independent person or team.

Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval, appearing for the CBI, also opposed appointment of any other team to go into the transcripts and said a team of CBI officials can be entrusted with the task for submitting the report.

During the hearing, the bench said after going through the transcripts if it would find any kind of criminality by any person in the conversations then it could refer the matter to the CBI.

Tata said handing over the transcripts would entail the risk of it being leaked and since the petition mainly concerns with right to privacy, it should not be allowed to change hands. The bench, after hearing all sides, said that it would go through the transcripts and decide the issue on January 22.

The conversations were recorded as part of surveillance of Radia's phone on a complaint to 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.

PTI