Amid reports of recall of all “off-air” tapping equipment by the Centre from the state governments, the Haryana government is being suspected by an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer of tapping his mobile phone.
Sanjiv Chaturvedi, a 2002 batch IFS officer, on whose complaint some senior officers were investigated by the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), has expressed his suspicion regarding tapping of his phone in a letter to financial commissioner, home, on May 31, 2011.
The officer, who faced harassment for almost three years after he unearthed a number of irregularities in his department, wrote the letter when state authorities declined to give him information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, regarding tapping of his phone.
The applicant has now filed an appeal before the State Information Commission against denial of information. The home department had claimed exemption from disclosure under sections 8(1) (a) and (h) of the Act.
“The phone tapping information cannot be disclosed in this manner. If we respond to such requests, there will be a deluge of RTI applications. And, everyone will try to know whether his phone is being tapped or not. The secrecy aspect will be undermined,” FC, home, Samir Mathur said on being contacted.
Section 8(1) of RTI Act states that notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen (a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; and (h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders.
However, the IFS officer has, in his appeal to SIC on June 21, contested the exemption claimed by the home department, contending that these grounds were not applicable in his case. The sections cited by the home department were not admissible in this case as the applicant was an All India Services officer and there was no police case or investigation pending against him, he is learnt to have written.
Already, there is a secrecy-versus-privacy debate going on at the national level after the Central Information Commission ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation last month to give details of proposals sent to the union home ministry seeking permission for tapping telephones.
Security and investigating agencies have been claiming blanket exemption under these provisions.
Chaturvedi, who is currently posted as divisional forest officer (production) at Hisar, had on April 2, 2011 sought copies of the instructions issued by the state government for keeping his mobile phone under surveillance.
The home department transferred his application to the director general of police, Haryana, asking him to send the reply directly.
State public information officer (SPIO) in the office of DGP, CID, refused to supply information, stating that the CID had been granted exemption except in matters relating to cases of corruption or human rights violations.
Later, the home department also claimed exemption. The IFS officer had challenged the transfer of the application as FCPS, Home, was the competent authority to order the tapping of phones.