Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee (HPCC) today submitted memorandum against Phone Tapping in all districts and demanded speedy inquiry and Legal Action (taking enquiry to its logical conclusion) in it. Protesting state Congress leaders demanded Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to expose culprits of Phone tapping in general Public.

Congress state leaders alleged that act of Phone Tapping was “Act of Moral turpitude” of Previous BJP Government and added that Dhumal led Govt had misused the government machinery to invade the privacy of the people of the state.

Congress in its memorandum said that ‘Everyone has the right to privacy and phone tapping invades that right; in fact, it violates the constitutional and human rights of an individual. Indian constitution lists freedom of speech and expression as fundamental rights of every Indian citizen and the act of phone tapping affects these rights. The Law makers were conscious about the fact that phone tapping may be required in administration of justice therefore, guardedly, made provisions in Telegraph Act 1885 and Information and technology act 2000 which provides that :- As per the clause (5) of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885, the power of interception of communication can be used only when it is necessary or expedient to do in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the country, and for friendly relations with a foreign state. Maintenance of public order and prevention of incitement for the commission of an offence also justify the use of phone tapping and other means of communication interception. The Indian law also mentions that even if the above conditions exist, the procedure of phone tapping is permissible only if carried out in a fair and reasonable manner. The law also calls for formulation of precautions to be taken for preventing improper interception or disclosure of messages.

However, Section 69 of the Indian Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008 allows any government official or policemen to listen to calls, read SMSs and emails and monitor websites visited by any person, if essential, in the interests of the country. As per the amended act, no warrant is required from a magistrate to do so. The amended law has expanded the powers of the government to authorize phone tapping by dropping all references to public safety or emergencies. The section allows for decryption, encryption and monitoring of communication to investigate any offence, cognizable or not.

The Supreme Court of India has also laid down the guidelines for this purpose in order to protect the right to privacy of citizens and same are summarily as under

 The orders for phone tapping can be issued only by the home secretary of the government of India and the home secretaries of state governments.

 In urgent cases, the power of issuance can be delegated to an officer below the rank of joint secretary.

 Each order should mention the reasons for phone tapping and is applicable for only two months

 The orders should be specific with regard to names, persons and places.

 Although the order for phone tapping can be extended, it should not be done for more than six months

 Each order is subject to examination by a review committee, consisting of Cabinet secretary, law secretary and telecommunication secretary.

 The review should be done within two months of the order of interception

 It should justify that it is not possible to collect the required information through other means

 The authorities need to keep a record of the phone tapping and destroy them once their retention is found to be unnecessary.

Supreme Court added that Court “right to hold a telephone conversation in the privacy of one’s home or office without interference can certainly be claimed as the right to privacy.” So any instance of phone tapping, unless carried out through a lawful procedure is unconstitutional. This act of previous BJP government amounts to an act of Moral turpitude and same is defined by Corpus Juris Secundum, Vol. 58, page 1201 as under:

“Moral turpitude” has been defined as meaning an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow man, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man, and this definition has been given by a great many authorities and approved by all that have considered the question. The terms has also been defined as meaning anything done contrary to justice, honesty, principle, or good morals ; everything done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals ; anything done knowingly contrary to justice, honesty, or good morals. “Moral turpitude” has also been defined to mean baseness, depravity, or wickedness; base or shameful character; a base or shameful act.

Congress leaders said that on the basis of preliminary probe, it is clear that the BJP Government and its Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal was prima facie involved in Phone Tapping an act of moral turpitude and an offence under law of the land. This act of the BJP government is an offence against the innocent and honest people of Himachal Pradesh. Congress alleged that the previous BJP Government has not only committed offence but has also lowered the estimation of Himachal Pradesh in the eyes of world by committing such shocking crime of invading the privacy of citizens.

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