Tata group chairman Ratan Tata moved the Supreme Court Monday seeking judicial restraint on the publication of transcripts of phone intercepts of top corporate lobbyist Nira Radia with leading business, media and political figures on the ground of right to privacy.
The petition was similar to what had been filed by Radia herself in the Delhi High Court that, in May, had declined to restrain the telecast of a similar set of wiretaps by a TV channel that had got possesssion of it on the ground that the people of the country had a right to know the truth.
Tata’s petition contended in the apex court that the publication of intercepts violated his right to privacy. The reference was to the transcript of 5,851 purported conversations Radia had with different people during the period of the wiretap. The calls were purportedly intercepted on the instruction of the Income Tax Department after approval from the home ministry.
Tatas’s petition made the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the director general of Income Tax and Union of India respondents. At the same time, the government’s right to intercept telephone calls was not being questioned, he said.
Seeking action against the people who were responsible for leaking the transcripts, Tata said that the recorded conversations could have been used for investigations only and not for publication in media.
The government has, meanwhile, ordered an inquiry into the unauthorised leak of the tapes that has set media and political circles abuzz.
Senior counsel Prashant Bhushan, who appeared in tha apex court for the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, said it was considering moving an application to oppose any such curbs on the publication of the transcripts.
Bhushan’s client is also seeking court monitoring of the investigation into the telecom spectrum allocation scandal.
During the hearing of Radia’s petition in the Delhi High Court, Justice V.K. Shalli had observed that the people of India had the right to know the truth and the recordings were made by a government agency against which no challenge had been filed so far.
The “Radia tapes”, as the wiretaps are being called, refer to her conversations with then communications Minister A. Raja, some leading industrialists and journalists. The tapes were submitted as evidence in a litigation on the 2G spectrum row in the Supreme Court.
Raja had quit as communications minister Nov 15 due to the 2G spectrum controversy amid charges of large scale corruption in allotment of spectrum licenses.