CBDT Can Continue To Request Phones Tap In India

Phone tapping in India has been in controversies recently. Whether it is phone tapping by private individuals or public distribution of tapped conversations, Indian government has been in controversies.

In a recent development, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has authorised the Home Ministry to take the final call on the contentious issue of withdrawing the CBDT’s powers of phone-tapping.

Now it has been reported that the CBDT will continue to enjoy the power to request telephone tapping despite a strong recommendation by a Committee of Secretaries against it. However, it is not immediately clear the conditions the CBDT will have to fulfill before requesting the tapping of telephones of any individual.

Suggestions for removal of CBDT from the agencies that can request phone tapping were given believing that tax evasion cases neither have criminal liability nor any national security issue as these were only civil matters.

The panel recommended either removal of the CBDT from the list of authorised agencies that can request telephone interception as the income tax laws fall within civil jurisdiction and do not always impinge on the public safety or to specify stipulations regarding the extent of surveillance allowed to the agency, including the level at which requests are to be made for authorisation by the Home Secretary. However, we have still to deal with lawful interception law in India.

There is an urgent need to formulate effective and constitutional lawful interception law in India. Lawful Interception is a process that “Reconciles” the Law Enforcement requirements and Civil Liberties of a Nation. In the Indian context, we have no Lawful Interception Law in India. By Lawful Interception Law it means a “Constitutionally Sound” Lawful Interception Law and not the present “Self Serving Laws” of India like Indian Telegraph Act 1885.

If we have a clear cut law, this turf war between various Ministries of India can be avoided. Presently, phone tapping is not regulated by a clear cut and constitutional law.