‘It did nothing to find out how tapped conversations were leaked’

The government is “lackadaisical” in finding out how the tapped telephonic conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with top politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen were leaked, senior counsel Harish Salve told the Supreme Court, even as industrialist Ratan Tata watched the proceedings, on Wednesday. Counsel was making his submissions on behalf of Mr. Tata, who alleged that unauthorised publication of his private conversations with Ms. Radia, recorded by the Directorate-General of Income Tax, infringed his right to privacy.

Mr. Salve told a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and V. Gopala Gowda that the government had a careful design “to exculpate the Income Tax Department and its officials. They wanted to give themselves clean chit,” pointing the finger at the CBI for the leakage. “What did the government do when the information came to light? Somebody in the government should have been worried. If this kind of information can be leaked, then anything can be leaked.”

Counsel said an independent review committee should be formed to examine the contents of the tapes and decide whether these had to be preserved or destroyed.

In his writ petition, Mr. Tata said the authorities failed to protect the privacy of those whose conversations were recorded and to act in accordance with the Rules under the Indian Telegraph Act in dealing with the transcripts. Even if the transcripts had been illegally obtained by someone, no steps were taken to retrieve them and prevent their dissemination in public.

Mr. Tata sought a direction to the authorities to retrieve as far as possible all recordings and to the CBI to conduct a thorough enquiry into the matter. He said there should be no further publication of these recordings — either as audio files through the Internet or as transcripts in any media, print or electronic.

Arguments will continue on Thursday.

A statement issued by Tata Sons said Mr. Tata made a personal appearance in the ongoing proceedings. He filed this writ petition “on a matter of principle. He believes privacy is an important right for every individual and is keenly following the progress of this case.”

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