The income tax department (I-T) suspects that the tapes of alleged conversation between corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and journalists, ministers and corporate captains been leaked from telecom service provider’s end amid a raging debate on the whether people’s right to privacy have been intruded.
“Since we conducted the entire operation of call interception for our investigation purposes, leakage from our end seems pretty illogical,” claimed a senior Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) official who did not wish to be identified.
The home ministry ordered an inquiry into the leakage on Monday after Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata moved the Supreme Court seeking an injunction on the publication of the leaked tape conversations.
“Leaks could have been possible at the service provider’s end, through which the calls were routed,” the official said. According to an I-T official, who was involved in the investigations, the department had investigated cases of possible tax evasion by Radia and her four firms that provide consulting services to a string of blue-chip corporations.
This is contrary to what the I-T department had said in April this year. “The I-T department has not recorded any telephone conversation of influential businessmen, politicians and advertising professionals as alleged,” the CBDT had said in a statement on April 28.
A home ministry offical, however, did not rule out the possibility of a CBDT “insider” leaking the tapes.
“On strict legal terms, only security agencies have the right to conduct lawful interception of calls, and it’s not possible for a service provider or employee to have an access to tapped conversations,” a C-DOT official said on condition of anonymity.
Legal experts said phone tapping by any person or agency without due authorisation amounts to violation of the Indian Telegraph Act.
“Ordinarily, it can’t be leaked by a service provider,” Delhi-based advocate Manali Bhandare Singhal said. “Only investigation can tell who and how it got leaked.”
Experts tracking the developments said it might be possible for persons to access the contents of the conversations by technology, although it may be unlawful.
“After all, the calls are routed originally through the equipment of service provider and anyone looking for mischief can have an access to it,” the C-DOT official said.