Centre knows tapping, AP in soup

Telangana Kept Modi Government in Loop Before Tapping Phones
By Express News Service Published: 31st July 2015 05:03 AM Last Updated: 31st July 2015 05:40 AM

HYDERABAD: In a new twist to the phone tap row between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments, the Hyderabad High Court on Thursday granted stay on all further proceedings in the case at the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s (CMM) court in Vijayawada. While admitting a petition filed by the Telangana government seeking stay on the proceedings at the CMM court, Justice Vilas V Afzulpurkar held that the plea was maintainable and directed the lower court to submit call records and other material furnished by telecom service providers, without opening the sealed cover, to the high court registry.

Importantly, more than the interim stay, the arguments presented in the court by the Centre are being seen as a major shocker to the Andhra Pradesh government.

Additional Solicitor General of India Natarajan submitted that the Union of India acts under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act — which empowers it to take possession of licensed telegraphs and order interception of messages. “As interception is legal where procedure is followed, courts cannot call for records. The entire correspondence regarding interception is a privileged document and cannot be disclosed or forced to be disclosed even before a court of law. The contents of interception are with the law enforcing agency of the State (TS),” he argued. Significantly, he said, “the State of Telangana sought the opinion of the Centre before intercepting certain telephonic conversations and the entire correspondence regarding the interception is a privileged document”.

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    It cannot be disclosed or forced to be disclosed even before a court of law.” The TS government moved the high court after the CMM court had directed telecom service providers, BSNL, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communication, to submit call data records of certain numbers and original letters seeking interception of the same written to them by the Telangana government. It had further directed them not to destroy the data or letters.

    These orders were issued on a petition filed by SIT formed by the AP government seeking a directive to the service providers to submit the information. The Telangana government wants the high court to declare as illegal the orders issued by the CMM court.