Union Home Ministry has constituted a high level team to investigate cases of illegal phone tapping by various agencies across the country including Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources said that MHA has received complaints from various prominent personalities from across the country who have complained that their telephones including mobiles phones had been either kept under surveillance or tapped for reasons not known to them. These complainants have alleged that even private calls to wives and friends had been snooped by police and other agencies illegally.
They have cited instances where police officials have snooped on them probably to drive pleasure by overhearing private conversations between family members. The complainants have urged Union Home Ministry to go through the taped conversations accessed by police as well as intelligence agencies and find out for themselves the futility of the keeping an eye on their mobiles and landline telephones.
They have further asked the Union Home Ministry to seek detailed data of phone tapping and tracing from Jammu and Kashmir where even constables have been given access. At times, conversations are overheard seemingly to drive pleasure, embarrass individuals, help thugs and cheats and in certain cases, settle family disputes, the complainants have alleged.
They have said that lawful interception of telephonic communication is governed by the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, which empowers the Central and State Governments to carry out interception of communication messages under the stipulated conditions but for the same, detailed procedure for handling the lawful interception cases is provided in Rule 419A of Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, 2007.
They have said that even the cases registered in different Police Stations across the country relating to allegations of illegal phone tapping are under investigation. On being asked, an official of home department said that unlawful interception is a punishable offence under section 25 & 26 of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885, with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to three years, or with fine, or with both.
He further said that both central and the state government have taken several steps to prevent illegal interception of telephone calls. He added that under rule 419A of Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, 2007 provides for the detailed procedure and precautions for handling the lawful interception cases in order to ensure that unauthorized interception of messages does not take place.
He further said that Union Ministry of Home Affairs has issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for lawful interception, handling, use, sharing, copying, storage and destruction of records to central as well as state law enforcement agencies. Besides this, telecom department has issued standard operating procedures (sops) for lawful interception to the telecom service providers (TSPs).