The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notices to the Centre and two English magazines on industrialist Ratan Tata’s petition seeking that further publication of his telephonic conversations with lobbyist Niira Radia be stopped.
“We are not in hurry,” said a bench of justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly directing the home ministry, finance ministry, CBI and Directorate General of Income Tax to respond to Tata’s petition in 10 days.
Tata had not impleaded as parties the two English magazines — Open and Outlook —that published the conversations but the court wanted them to be made parties. “...We should hear the other side also,” they said. The bench said: “It should not be left to be an academic exercise…since we are examining the issue, we want to hear them also...”
In his petition, Tata has requested the court to protect his privacy by stopping further publication/broadcast of his telephonic conversations with Radia and action against the officials responsible for leaking out the tapes to the media.
On behalf of Tata, senior counsel Harish Salve said he was not questioning the right of the enforcement agencies to tap somebody’s phone or its use for investigating a crime.
“My concern is that the audio content of personal conversation should not be put into public domain…” This kind of mass dissemination of private conversations violated right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, he added.
“What are these private conversations? We do not get it from the petition,” the SC asked.
Referring to Tata’s interim prayer to stop publication/broadcast of the tapes, Attorney General GE Vahanvati said: “How can we further prohibit it?”
The government has already ordered a probe into the leaking of Radia tapes and handed over the CDs of telephonic conversations between Radia and various businessmen, politicians and journalists to the court.