The Supreme Court on Wednesday lifted its five-year-old gag on publication or telecast of the taped conversations of former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh with top politicians, Bollywood stars and industrialists.
Singh’s petition was an attempt to “mislead” the court on the basis of “frivolous” allegations, a bench of justice GS Singhvi and justice AK Ganguly said. It also pulled up the 54-year-old parliamentarian for hiding facts.
Singh had in 2006 moved the court, claiming his Reliance Infocomm number was tapped at the behest of the Centre and it invaded his privacy. A bench headed by the then chief justice of India YK Sabharwal had stayed publication or telecast of the taped conversations.
The court on Tuesday did not pass any judgment on the issue of “illegal” phone-tapping. It, however, did ask the government to frame guidelines for the interception of telephone conversations to prevent illegal tapping by service providers.
Criticising up Reliance Infocomm for tapping Singh's phone on the basis of ‘forged’ documents, it said, “… the service provider has to act as a responsible agency and cannot act on any communication.”
Unlike the Niira Radia tapes, where conversations were tapped on income-tax authorities’ order, Singh's phone was not tapped on government's order.
The so-called Radia tapes caused a stir and have been at the centre of the 2G spectrum case. Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata has moved the apex court against making the contents public, citing breach of privacy. Parts of the tapes have already found way into the press. The court was unhappy with Singh for changing his stand during proceedings. After accusing the Congress and its president of asking the Delhi Police to tap his phone, he had abruptly withdrawn the allegations.
These charges were the basis of his plea filed before the SC. The government and Delhi Police told the court no order was passed to tap Singh’s calls and was done illegally by private persons.