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Telephones of only those involved in terrorist activities, economic offences, drug trafficking, money laundering or other criminal activities are tapped and there is no indiscriminate interception, government said today.

Responding to a PIL seeking court’s direction declaring Section 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act as “violative” of the fundamental rights and privacy of citizens, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain told Delhi High Court that there has been no indiscriminate telephone tapping by the government machinery.

“The interception order essentially relates to telephones of persons involved in terrorist activities, economic offence, drug trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities or for preventing the commission of an offence.

“The interception by Law Enforcement Agencies is carried out in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state … Hence the allegations made and apprehension raised are irrational,” Jain submitted before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw.

Defending the existing law on tapping of telephonic conversations by law enforcement agencies, the ASG said the legal mechanism for interception was framed keeping in mind the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of the country.

The ASG’s submission came on a PIL filed by advocate Ravindra Kumar that alleged that the government machinery did not comply with the existing guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, while issuing orders to intercept telephones of individuals.

The petition said “the apex court has laid down that right to privacy is an integral part of Fundamental Right to Life, and therefore it is imperative upon the legislature to suitably legislate to provide for constitutional safeguards against the arbitrary and indiscriminate exercise of power under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, so as not to infringe upon the Fundamental Right to Life.”

After this ruling, Parliament ought to have amended the statutory provisions of Section 5(2) of the IT Act itself, it has said.

The court has now fixed March 4 for further hearing on the plea, in which the petitioner said the administrative action of government authorities in tapping the telephones of citizens, without adhering to the guidelines laid down by the apex court, was unconstitutional and invalid.

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