The Central Board of Direct Taxes that had tapped phones of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia on grounds of national security will continue to retain its powers to tap phones despite a decision by committees of secretaries to the contrary.
A committee of secretaries had asked the government to strip the income tax of its powers to tap phones on grounds that income tax laws fall within civil jurisdiction and do not always impinge on the public safety. The IT department was empowered to tap phones only in 2006. Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar had told the government to either strip CBDT of its powers or specify stipulations regarding the extent of surveillance allowed to the agency.
Officials said the government had taken a decision to allow the CBDT to tap phones on the condition that it meets certain conditions to be stipulated.
The panel of secretaries had not backed this approach earlier on grounds that a conditional authority to CBDT to tap phones would encourage the agency to fudge records to link its request for phone tapping to public safety and not mere tax evasion.
In the Radia case, the income tax department was allowed to tap her phone on the basis of a November 2007 letter received by the finance ministry accusing her to be an agent of foreign intelligence agencies.