Telephone tapping allowed only in case of public emergency: HC

 Telephone tapping is permissible only in situations of public emergency or in the interest of public safety, the Bombay High Court held on Tuesday and quashed orders passed by the Union Home Ministry allowing agencies to intercept phone calls of a businessman booked by the CBI in a bribery case.

A division bench of Justices R V More and N J Jamadar was hearing a petition filed by the businessman, Vinit Kumar, challenging the three orders, passed between October 2009 and February 2010, that allowed tapping of his phone calls.

Kumar’s counsels Vikram Nankani and Sujay Kantawala had argued that the interception orders were in the violation of the provisions of the Telegraph Act and the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India.

The CBI had registered a case in 2011, accusing Kumar of paying a bribe of Rs 10 lakh to a public servant (a bank official) to secure credit-related favour.

“We are of the view that as per the section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act, an order for interception can be issued on either the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety.

“When either of the two conditions are not in existence, it was impermissible to take resort to telephone tapping,” the bench said.

“We are satisfied that in peculiar fact of the instant case, the impugned three interception orders neither have sanction of law nor issued for legitimate aim, as sought to be suggested,” the judges noted.

The bench further held that since the interception orders were issued in contravention to the provisions of law, the concerned intercepted messages will have to be destroyed.

The bench, however, added that it was not making any remarks on the merits of the case against the petitioner.

Bombay High Court asks Maharashtra government about steps taken to tackle drought

The Bombay High Court has sought to know from the Maharashtra government what measures it proposes to tackle “serious” issues like drought in the state.

A vacation bench of Justices Ajey Gadkari and N J Jamadar was hearing a petition filed by activist Sanjay Lakhe Patil, seeking setting up of independent disaster management committees in each district of the state.

Patil sought for implementation of the 2016 disaster management guidelines which listed several measures to be undertaken by the state government to tackle natural calamities and disasters, including drought.

When the petition was heard on Monday, Patil produced records before the court to show that water levels in dams and other resources had gone down in the state’s Vidarbha and Marathwada regions.

“The issue is serious. We want some lawyer from the state government to inform us what measures the government proposes to take (to tackle the issue),” the court said.

The bench then posted the petition for further hearing on May 20.