Wednesday, August 17th, 2022 15:58:42

Phone Tapping Unconstitutional Act

Updated: May 15, 2010 12:24 pm

There is a storm in the Parliament on the issue of phone tapping of political leaders and the Prime Minister was asked to make a statement. Though the Home Minister in his statement denied phone tapping of political leaders in the floor of the House, it did not satisfy the members who demanded a joint parliamentary committee to probe into the matter. Telephone tapping would infringe Article 21 of the constitution of India— which provides that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law. Right to privacy is part of right to life and right to privacy would include telephone conversation in the privacy of home or office. It also infringe Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution which guarantees that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. Unless it comes within the purview of Article 19(2) which imposes reasonable restrictions by law, a person, while talking on telephone is exercising his right to freedom of speech and expression. The concerned law in this regard is the Indian Telegraph Act 1885. Section 5(2) of the Act permits the interception of messages in accordance with the provisions of the said section. “Occurrence of any public emergency” or “in the interest of public safety” is the sine qua non for the application of provisions of section 5(2).

           IPL corruption

Nobody Is Going To The Roots

I was talking to my brother-in-law, Prasanna Ojha, in Mumbai early Sunday morning. He is a senior banker and avid cricket lover. We didn’t have time to talk things personal as the conversation was mostly around the IPL controversy. Put off by the dirt surrounding the League, Prasanna observed: I think the IPL won’t last long. It’s going the Sharjah way. It will be wound up, if only to protect the real culprits who’ve used the IPL to make and launder dirty money.

            Gem of a thought original. I was surprised how our Indian media, agog over the IPL controversy, never thought of this angle. After all it is a thought and thoughts more than facts govern journalism, don’t they!

            For 15 years everybody who was somebody in the Sharjah circuit made money. There are umpteen reports and investigations into match-fixing and player-buying. Careers of many cricketers were botched up as a result. As luck would have it, a timely bout of strained India-Pakistan relations was just the excuse the culprits needed to kill the golden goose that was Sharjah. Was any official, ever so minor, ever brought to book? No.

            So, what’s stopping the real crooks behind IPL to do a Sharjah? Notwithstanding the fact that the franchisees would lose money or that companies and corporations which bought rights of television, logos, tickets, travel, accommodation, etc, would move courts for breach of contracts?

            I feel there’s someone, everyone’s trying to protect. And this someone is the chap who should be hanged for everything wrong with IPL. And this someone is known to all. The man who painstakingly won the epithet of ‘would-have-been-Prime-Minister’. The man who, it is said, is worth all smugglers put together in black money. The man who has the blood of thousands of farmers who committed suicide. The man who can stop off-loading of grain or other food stuff at Indian ports till such time that local prices shoot up. The man who controls a metropolis. The man who with support of a single-digit number of MPs can blackmail the government. Do I need to name him? Only morons would say yes.

            The tax authorities were already on to the IPL dirt even before the present controversy arose. The Shashi Tharoor-Lalit Modi spat, intentional or not, only hastened the inevitable outcome that the IPL books would one day have to be checked. Lalit Modi has a lot to answer for, least for his so-called dictatorial attitude. He is what he is because of his ability to wheel and deal and not because of his short temper.

            The question at hand is: Has Lalit Modi fallen out with his mentor, the man described above? On this tenuous answer hangs the future of IPL and a lot more. If yes, there’s going to be a catharsis. If not, let’s all look forward to IPL 2011.

            In India where cricket is religion, cricket is politics too. Crass politics at that. Can the present Indian government dare to take a decisive decision on the IPL? A big, fat no. It is too busy in self-preservation. What if Sharad Pawar and the NCP break-away if they are to lose by any decisive government action? On such silly excuses is laid the future of this country. Shame!

            But the opposition fares no better. Incidentally, have you heard the BJP cry foul about the corruption charges against IPL? Again, a big, fat no. Instead, the BJP cried hoarse about Tharoor who, in any case, was incidental to the real controversy surrounding IPL. Why?

            Because, something the moronic parliamentarians could never do inside the august House come together on a national issue they have achieved it to hide the IPL dirt. The ruling Congress, opposition BJP and semi-conductor NCP are all involved with IPL. Rajiv Shukla, Arun Jaitley and of course the Pawar-Patel duo. Why politics, even cricket

makes strange bedfellows. It is now left to cricket’s political have-nots, the Left parties, to cry about the real issue of corruption in IPL. But who cares for these guys? If they are honest about wanting to know the truth about IPL, it is only because they have not yet got the opportunity to be dishonest. They share no cake of the IPL pie. That’s all.

            With politics in the hands of such corrupts and dimwits, IPL should be able to thrive. The BCCI, which perhaps is the most corrupt body in India, and to that matter the Indian government itself, do not have the balls to emulate the English cricket board. When the investment fraud of Texas billionaire Allen Stanford came to light, the English cricket board lost no time in severing all ties with his Stanford cricket series.

            I have been keenly watching the fables and the fabulous passed off as IPL news in NDTV by Prannoy and his disciples. I studiously ignore Star for the simple reason that its main anchor still can’t sit or stand still and is devoid of basic broadcasting intelligence. Aajtak, on the other hand, continues to be refreshing, what with fresh and still freckled kids replacing professionals to dig out the IPL truth all by themselves with the help of non-existing sources. (Maybe I really, am acute scpetic to feel this way.)

            The semi-retired and senile journalists, experts and politicians who make up a large part of the furniture in the NDTV studios continue to confuse the viewers mostly through calculated ignorance. In the last week, all their studio shows focussed only on IPL, just as their news fillers in the advertisement wheel. But at the end of the day, they didn’t amount to anything other than the information put out by agencies or the IPL culprits themselves on social networking sites. The one issue these forms of wood spoke at length was whether the government would go in for a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) to probe the IPL issue. Were they suggesting a way out for the culprits to go scot free, considering these very experts have in the past exposed the JPC for what it really is the most legal form for hiding the dirt under the carpet? What was laughable was that these guys should be talking of a JPC when even politicians, like Abhishek Manu Singhvi of the Congress, were admitting on record that a JPC is ‘not binding on anyone at all’!

            Of course, I must mention Barkha Dutt, whose unrivalled investigation brought her face to face with Pretty Zinta, part-owner of King’s Eleven from Punjab. She asks Zinta leading questions about the latter’s stake in the team and Zinta gives led answers to the effect that she is completely above board. And for some good reason, she also gives a clean chit to Shah Rukh Khan of Kolkata Knight Riders. Was Dutt fronting for Zinta’s real or contrived innocence? It is fair to give all parties in a controversy to have their say. But Dutt appeared desperate to get Zinta to say that she is innocent. Obviously, the “Padma” journalist had done no homework. Otherwise the questions would have been direct and hitting. I think after frauds and sycophants, it will be the turn of the journalists to re-invent the Indian tradition of respecting elders or the powerful, as the case may be, by touching their feet or saying ‘Sir’ and ‘Madame’.

            In the end, I doubt if the truth will come out at all. After all, the IPL culprits have the best possible defence batting for them: a cowardly government, a lame duck media, the partnership between the Congress and the BJP in the IPL and of course, the Indian people who’d rather show the other cheek too, in the Gandhian way, if that would get them a chance to sit in a private box to watch cricket live from the stadium.

            If there are any Indians who are exceptions to this ancient vestige of intellectual slavery, let them come out to ensure they are heard above the din of the silence of the lambs.

            PS: We’ll have to wait for IPL 2011 to see if the foreign players will be keen to join the league after this scandal. As it is, many senior international players have retired despite auction selections, many top rankers from the 2008 auction have completed their three-year contracts, and very few known faces remain for being auctioned in 2011. Unless the organisers look at our neighbours, who failed to get in in 2010, to fill the slots.

By VVP Sharma from London

The Supreme Court has clearly said that unless a public emergency has occurred or the interest of Public

Safety demands, the Authorities have no jurisdiction to exercise the powers under the said section. Public emergency would mean the prevailing of a sudden condition or state of affairs affecting the people at large, calling for immediate action. The expression “public safety” means the state or condition of freedom from danger or risk for the people at large. When either of these two conditions is not in existence, the central government or the state government or the authorised officer cannot resort to the telephone tapping even though there is satisfaction that it is necessary or expedient to do so in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of India. If there is no emergency or the security of the people are not threatened, government is not empowered to encroach upon this valuable right of the citizens by resorting to phone tapping.

            This is not only the scenario at the national level; different state governments are also resorting to this practice of phone tapping for victimising their opponents, specially the political leaders belonging to opposition. The government of Orissa has not lagged behind other states in this regard. The Home department was asked to furnish details of phone tapping between 2000 to 2008. The Public Information Officer transferred the case to the Crime Branch and Intelligence wing of the state police and while the Intelligence wing turned down the case on the ground that it was not covered under the RTI Act, Crime Branch did not respond. The Home Department is quite competent to furnish such information but it transferred the matter to Crime Branch and Intelligence with some ulterior motive which is highly improper. It is true that the matter is now before the State Information Commission in an appeal but what worries us is the attitude of government which is unethical, undemocratic and arbitrary. This shows that the government has no respect for the rights of citizens which is dangerous for democracy.

            Whether it is at the national level or state level this constitutional right cannot be invaded except when there is emergency or public safety is in danger. The government should not forget that they are to protect the right of the citizen and not to violate them. Since the Right to Life and Personal Liberty and Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression are considered to be very valuable in our democratic set-up, the Supreme Court has issued directives for their strict observance in the matter of phone tapping and prohibited the governments from exercising such arbitrary powers except under situations as provided under section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act. If the government fails to respect these valuable rights of the citizens, it loses its moral right to rule. Under such circumstances, it is appropriate that there should be a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe into the matter at the Central level and there should be a high level judicial probe in the state of Orissa.

The writer is former Minister of Law, Industry and Revenue, Government of Orissa

 By Biswabhusan Harichandan


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