The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that the Nira Radia tapes published and telecast by the media were tampered with and the government agencies were not responsible for its leakage.
Additional Solicitor-General Indira Jaising made this submission before a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhyaya, hearing the petitions filed by industrialist Ratan Tata, challenging the publication of certain conversations involving him on the ground that it affected his right to privacy.
Placing a confidential enquiry report in a sealed envelope before the Bench, she said, as per the report eight to 10 agencies, including service providers, were involved in the tapping of telephonic conversation of former corporate lobbyist Radia. She also made it clear that the conversations were not leaked to the media by the government agencies.
After going through the report, Justice Singhvi observed: “The report says the starting and the end point of the conversation do not match with the original tapes.”
The Centre's submission was in response to the Supreme Court direction seeking the report of a probe ordered into the leakage of “classified documents/telephonic intercepts” of Ms. Radia's conversations with politicians, businessmen and journalists.
Mr. Tata, in his petition had said that several parts of the conversations were purely private in nature, spoken casually and could not be taken seriously. He pleaded that the portals and the other news media should be restrained from making his conversations public and sought action against those involved in the leakage of the tapes, claiming it infringed his fundamental right to life and privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution and freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a).
The Centre in its response said that in November 2009, the Director-General of Income Tax (Investigation) informed the Intelligence Bureau that an analysis of the intercepts would suggest that some of the conversations were quite sensitive and could indicate violation of the provisions of the IT Act by the parties concerned.
In December 2009, the records of 1,450 calls containing about 100 hours of recording were handed over to the CBI and the entire recordings, consisting of about 5,800 calls, was handed over to the CBI in May 2010. The Centre pointed out that the audio tapes and some of the transcripts had been published in some magazines and put on some websites.
Mr. Tata's senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, making his submission on Tuesday, urged the court to lay down guidelines for the media in reporting such conversations. He submitted that while freedom of the press was vital, an individual's right to privacy was also equally important and hence a balance had to be struck to avoid conflict of interests. Arguments will continue on Thursday.