Saturday, September 5, 2015

Editorial, "Right to Privacy and Corruption Cases", in LAW ANIMATED WORLD, 15 June 2015 issue, Vol. 11, Part 1, No. 11.


are the hot topics of the day, with the sensational trapping of Revanth Reddy, MLA and Telugu Desam Party leader, in the so-called ‘Vote for Note’ scam by the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Telangana, and the statements by the Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) and Home Minister of Telangana to implicate the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh too in that corruption case on the basis of a mysterious audio tape broadcast by the Telangana news channel, with some even alleging that KCR himself handed over that tape to ‘their home channel’. The matters turned hotter with the ‘accused’ Chandra Babu Naidu, and his colleagues, hitting back with the allegations of illegal wiretapping resorted to by KCR and the Telangana Home Minister against them in violation of all constitutional and governance principles. May be the illegality of tapping may not relieve CBN from the rigors of present law relating to admissibility of evidence but that would certainly incriminate KCR, and others involved, on other counts and this tit-for-tat tactic may perhaps compel these parties involved to come to some sort of a convenient, even if ignominious, compromise, or may be not. But what bothers us here is as to whether the right to privacy can be infringed for sting operations in connection with anti-corruption maneuvers. In PUCL v. Union of India (AIR 1997 SC 568), directly coming to confront the issue of telephone tapping, Justice Kuldip Singh had declared that “Telephone conversation is an important facet of a man's private life. Right to privacy would certainly include telephone-conversation in the privacy of one's home or office. Telephone-tapping would, thus, infract Article 21 of the Constitution of India unless it is permitted under the procedure established by law;” and proceeded to issue some guidelines for permissible tapping, the cardinal one being: “An order for telephone-tapping in terms of Section 5(2) of the [Telegraph] Act shall not be issued except by the Home Secretary, Government of India … and Home Secretaries of the State Governments……” And as Section 5(2) itself specifies the context of a public emergency or public safety as the essential prerequisite for any such tapping, that would certainly rule out any mere anti-corruption maneuver being a valid criterion for telephone tapping.  Further, a question as to whether the CM and Home Minister of Telangana are also liable for any contempt of court for divulging crucial evidence out of court also needs serious judicial consideration. §§§

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