The Chhattisgarh High Court has said that telephone tapping violates the right to privacy, unless it is done according to established legal procedure. The High Court relied on an earlier judgement of the Supreme Court which laid down guidelines for telephone tapping.
What are these guidelines/safeguards?
- Only the Home Secretary can issue an order for telephone tapping. In case of urgency, they can delegate this power to an officer (Joint Secretary or higher rank) of the department. Within one week, they should send a copy of the order to a Review Committee, consisting of:
- Cabinet Secretary, Law Secretary and Telecom Secretary at the Central level.
- Chief Secretary, Law Secretary and another member other than the Home Secretary at the State level.
- Before passing the order, the officer should consider its necessity, and whether they can get the information by other means.
- As per the order, the authority concerned can intercept specified communications transmitted through a public telecommunication system (including landline networks, cellular networks, etc). This could be communications sent to or from multiple addresses, and/or from particular people.
- The intercepting authority might have to disclose the intercepted material to the relevant authorities.
- The order will be valid for two months. The officer who issued the order can renew it any time before the end of the two-month period. However, the order cannot extend beyond six months totally.
- The officer who issued the order should maintain the following records:
(a) the intercepted communications,
(b) the extent of revealing the material,
(c) the number of people to whom it is disclosed, and their identity,
(d) the extent of copying the material, and
(e) the number of copies.
- Authorities should make minimum and limited use of the intercepted material. They should destroy each copy of the intercepted material when retaining it is no longer necessary.
- Within two months of the order, a Review Committee will investigate whether it is relevant or whether it has violated the law. After investigation, if the Committee concludes that the order is illegal, it will set aside the order and destroy any copies of the intercepted material. If the order is legal, the Committee will record this finding.