Say police act within the law

Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and State Police Chief K.S. Balasubramanian have denied the allegation that the Home Department has been tapping the phones of political opponents, presspersons and public workers.

Mr. Radhakrishnan told presspersons in Kottayam on Sunday that the State government would not resort to such measures for political gains, an assurance it had given in the Assembly.

Mr. Balasubramanian, in a press release issued in the State capital, said the State police acted within the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1995, and the Information Technology Act, 2000, when it came to tapping of phones. The police required the written sanction of the Home Secretary to tap phones. A committee headed by the Chief Secretary should vet the requests submitted by the police for tapping and monitor the procedures.

In a similar vein, the Minister said telephones could be tapped only on specific grounds such as preserving the sovereignty of the nation, maintaining national security and public order, prevention of crime and protection of the interests of the country under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraphic Act, 1885; Rule 419 A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951; and Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

“The present scene does not throw up any such grounds. The government is aware of the fact that it will have to face legal action if it violates the law. Why would the government engage in such activities as alleged,” he asked.

He saw a possibility that extremist groups were spreading baseless allegations to escape the police radar by whipping up a political controversy.

“Surveillance had been stepped up in the country in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks of 2008. There are reasons to suspect that outfits threatening national security are in the forefront of the present controversy,” he said.

MLAs’ charge

On the allegations of T.M. Thomas Isaac, MLA, and Government Chief Whip P.C. George that their phones were being tapped, Mr. Radhakrishnan said they should back their claims with evidence. Mr. George, who had demanded an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, was free to choose his course of action.

The Minister said a building at Sasthamangalam in the State capital, which the Opposition said was being used for tapping, was taken on rent by the government on February 3, 2010, when the Left Democratic Front was in power.

“The liability of the building, or any operations conducted in it, cannot be placed upon the UDF government,” he said.

Contrary to the allegation made by Dr. Isaac, the Home Minister said, the police do not possess an off-the-air recorder for mass interception of phones.

“Dr. Isaac has said that he, as the then Finance Minister, had sanctioned funds to buy the equipment. The Union government had, however, banned it before the United Democratic Front government took over. The device does not figure in the stock register of the police,” he said.

Banned device

In the release, Mr. Balasubramanian said the Union government had banned the use of “off-the-air interception” devices to monitor and record cellphone calls covertly.

The State police, as their counterparts elsewhere, did not possess such technology.

He said the allegation that the State police had used an open application called “True Caller,” a programme which trawled the Internet and phone directories maintained by e-mail and social networking service providers, was false. Neither the police nor any organisation or individual could listen in on, or record, the cellphone conversation of others with this software.

Mr. Balasubramanian said the allegations were baseless and the public should shed their apprehensions regarding the matter.

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