M A I N   N E W S

Judges feel bugged
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 30
The judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court believe that someone has been eavesdropping on them.

Available information suggests the judges are of the belief that “some state agency” has not only placed their incoming and outgoing numbers under surveillance, but is also listening to their conversations.

These apprehensions have already sent alarm bells ringing. The issue has become the talk of the high court, and was only recently discussed by a number of judges at a meeting.

The judges decided to hang up on the existing service provider, and to go in for new numbers from a different service provider. In fact, the judges have zeroed in on the BSNL.

The matter is now expected to be placed before the committee concerned of two judges for the implementation of the decision. Meanwhile, the BSNL officers say they are in touch with the high court.

The judges of the superior judiciary, and also of the subordinate courts, have for long been apprehensive about their phones being tapped. Similar apprehensions have also been aired time and again by advocates handling "anti-establishment" cases.

The issue was first raised by the judges about a month ago. As many as 15 judges penned down their apprehensions in a letter to the then Chief Justice and demanded a probe by an independent agency. They insist that illegal tapping of phone is a "serious offence" and the matter needs thorough investigation.

Supreme Court’s senior advocate K.T.S. Tulsi, who appeared in the apex court in the Amar Singh phone-tapping controversy, seems to agree.

He says phone tapping is “serious invasion of right to live with dignity and honour, and also right to privacy, which forms part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India”.

Tulsi says the violation of these rights of the judges can lead to sense of insecurity among people.

In India, individuals, firms or agencies, without license and proper official documents, are barred from tapping any private or public phone. As per the license conditions, telecom companies, too, are not allowed to indulge in illegal phone tapping. The security agencies can tap phone lines, but the reason has to be valid and in larger public and national interest.

“It can be resorted to only when the national security is involved, and that also with the prior permission of the homes secretary,” Tulsi adds.

Phone tapping is easy, but it is extremely hard to clamp down on agencies snooping on the GSM cellular phones. All that an agency requires is equipment costing about Rs 25 lakh. It is a small electronic device not bigger than a personal computer, and enables anyone using it to set himself up as a private detective.



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