Notice to central government on phone call interception

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) The Delhi High Court Wednesday issued notice to the central government on a plea seeking to declare a legal provision on interception of telephone calls as violative of citzens’ fundamental rights.

The plea contended that the action of the government authorities in tapping the telephones of various law-abiding citizens disregarded fundamental rights including right to privacy and were unconstitutional and illegal.
A division bench of Chief Justice D. Murugesan and Justice V.K. Jain issued notices, returnable by May 22, to the department of telecommunications, the director general of ministry of communications and information and technology, and the home secretary.
The court’s direction came on a PIL alleging that the government machineries don’t comply with the existing guidelines, laid down by the Supreme Court, while issuing orders to intercept the telephones of individuals.
The plea filed through senior advocate S.K. Rungta said: “The orders for interception of telephones passed by the home ministry are always mechanical and stereotyped wherein one and all allegations in one bunch without applying the procedures laid by law are issued.”
The PIL sought an “order or direction declaring that Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraph Act is violative of the fundamental and statutory rights of the citizens, including their right of privacy…”
“And that the administrative action of governmental authorities in tapping the telephones of citizens, without adhering to the guidelines laid down by the apex court is also unconstitutional and invalid,” the PIL added..
Rungta said that under the act, the government can order for interception of phones after following two essential preconditions – occurrence of public emergency or in the interests of public safety.
“The action of telephone tapping affects citizens from all walks of life and it is neither convenient nor feasible nor possible for hundreds of affected persons, to individually approach this court for relief,” the plea said.
The petition citing the Supreme Court ruling on the issue said: “The apex court has laid down that right to privacy is an integral part of fundamental right to Life, and therefore it is imperative upon the legislature to suitably legislate to provide for constitutional safeguards against the arbitrary and indiscriminate exercise of power under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, so as not to infringe upon the Fundamental Right to Life.”
After the Supreme Court ruling, parliament ought to have amended the statutory provisions Section 5 (2) of the Act itself, it added.