Against the backdrop of Radia tapes leak controversy, a 15-member Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) has been constituted for recommending effective monitoring of provisions of telephone tapping and curtailing its leakage to the public at large.
The Union Home Secretary will chair the IMG which will have secretaries of Defence, DoT, IT, Revenue, Personnel and Legal Affairs as among the members, according to a Cabinet Secretary note.
The Group will make recommendations on reviewing the comparable provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act and suggest amendments, the note said.
The IMG will go into Section 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act which envisages power for Government to take possession of licensed telegraphs and to order interception of messages.
The IMG which also comprises chiefs of Intelligence Bureau, CBI, Narcotics Control Bureau, NIA, DRI and ED, Member CBDT and Additional DG of Signal Intelligence (Defence Ministry) will draw up uniform processes and procedures including Standard Operating Procedures for usage of tapped phones and destruction of non-relevant information.
In the wake of recently leaked tapes pertaining to the telephone conversations between corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and others, the SOP will also look into destruction of intercepts and mode for destruction under which the authorised agencies should review information available on intercepts at periodic intervals and “must” destroy parts of transcript that are not relevant to their work.
“The entire conversation or message is not to be retained by the intercepting agency,” Cabinet Secretariat note said.
“System of call logs, which is computer generated currently prevents destruction of records, should be reviewed to ensure strict compliance with rules on destruction of information,” will be one of the SOP that will be deliberated upon by the IMG.
The IMG will also draw up regulation and prevention of misuse of off-the-air interception using GSM and CDMA phones.
The IMG will also draw up an SOP for checking the possibility of insider threats and leaking it and therefore it should maintain a chain of custody for intercepted material which is scrupulously followed by all agencies and service providers.
Mutual exchange of telephone intercepts between two probe agencies may also be redefined whereby only excerpts would be handed over investigating agency.
“During interception, any information that is relevant to another authorised agency, it may be mandated to exchange only that portion of the interception and not the entire transcript,” the note said.
The decision to form this IMG was taken after a high level meeting chaired by Prime Minister in February.