The Supreme Court today sought the Centre's response on a plea for disclosure of the entire contents of corporate lobbyists Niira Radia's conversation with politicians, journalists and corporate tycoons, which were tapped by government authorities.
A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S S Nijjar issued notice to the Centre and adjourned the matter for further hearing on February 2.
The court passed the order on a petition filed by civil society, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, seeking disclosure of the entire 5,800 conversations Radia had with different people, including ministers, journalists and corporate honchos, saying that it was in public interest to disclose the contents as it might reveal corruption in different government departments.
The government had taped Radia's telephonic conversation on a complaint to the Finance Ministry that she had been allegedly indulging in anti-national activities.
The petitioner also pleaded that disclosure of the contents of Radia tapes would be in immense public interest as it might expose the vicious cycle of corruption involving its various stakeholders, including politicians, bureaucrats, corporate and business houses and even scribes.
The petitioner asserted that bringing Radia tapes to the public domain might expose corruption in high places.
In the course of tapping Radia's conversation, the government had also recorded her conversation with industrialist Ratan Tata, who too has moved court seeking its direction to the government to probe leakage of the part of Radia tapes containing his conversation.
Tata had move the court against leakage of his conversation with Radia, saying that it violated his right to privacy, linked to his Fundamental Right of Life with dignity.
"Petitioner (Tata) is seriously concerned about the lackadaisical attitude of the government on standing by and allowing purloined material of this kind to be freely distributed and published without taking any step to retrieve it or to find out the source of leakage," Tata had said in his affidavit to the apex court, filed in response to the government's reply to his plea for probing the leakage of his talks with Radia.
He had said failure to protect his tapped conversations from being leaked and letting it reach outsiders "was not a matter of many great moments in law".
Tata pointed out that the Centre's affidavit to the apex court "gives the impression that it is the perception of the government that while protecting such wiretap material is required by the rules, the failure to safeguard such material leaking out and reaching the hands of outsiders does not warrant any step on the part of the government to retrieve it" or to probe as to how the leak occured.
Tata has also expressed reservations over the growing practise of intercepting telephonic conversation of individuals to probe cases involving violation of tax laws while the provision was originally used only to investigate serious offences involving the security of the state.