The Centre has prevailed over the Gujarat government’s suggestion to let the State Home Secretary be the final authority on phone-tapping requests, by making it clear that the State cannot have ‘absolute powers’ and such decisions and clearances will only be processed by the Union Home Secretary.
Presently, a State Home Secretary is permitted to authorise interception of phone calls as its office has been delegated to do so by the Union Home Secretary. This delegation of power from the Centre to the State is reviewed from time to time and can be revoked too, explained a senior Home Ministry official. >The Home Ministry, which recently gave the green signal to the contentious Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, 2015 , watered down this clause of the State government, in the final version of the Bill sent to the President of India for his assent. Once the President has signed the Bill, it becomes a law.
The other sticking point in the Bill — admissibility of evidence collected through confessions made before an SP rank investigating officer, in a court of law— has been accepted by the Centre as such provisions also exist in the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) of 1999.
The Bill, passed by the Gujarat Assembly in March this year, has been rejected by the UPA government thrice earlier. The Bill was first sent for the Centre’s approval in 2003 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
On August 25, Home Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed all the pending State legislation and asked officials to fast-track their clearance.
The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, permits the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), the Enforcement Directorate, the National Technical Research Organisation, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Income-Tax department and the State police to intercept phone calls in the interest of public safety.
“In their Bill, the State had made a provision for its Home Secretary to authorise interception of phone calls. Since it is a power delegated by the Union Home Secretary, there could be no changes to it. We had sent back the Bill to the State after receiving comments from other Ministries, including Information Technology and Law. The State agreed to drop the clause and we then processed the Bill,” said a senior government official.