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Phone tapping powers can't be misused: PM asks for report

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he has asked Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar to look into the issue of telephone tapping and suggest measures to prevent the leakages of recorded conversations outside the government.

delhi Updated: Dec 14, 2010 12:43 IST

Breaking his silence over the telephone tapping controversy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today acknowledged that there was "nervousness" in the corporate sector and spoke of tightening the system to prevent leakage of tapped conversations.

Speaking at a business conference here he said the Cabinet Secretary has been asked to look into these issues and report back to the Cabinet within the next month.

"I am aware of the nervousness in the corporate sector, arising out of the powers conferred upon the government authorities to tap phones for protecting national security and preventing tax evasion and money laundering.

"While these powers are needed, they have to be exercised with utmost care and under well-defined rules, procedures and mechanisms so that they are not misused," he said while inaugurating the India Corporate Week 2010.

Singh said solutions should be looked through technology to prevent access of telephone conversations to systems outside the framework of the government.

"Legal mechanisms already in place should be strengthened for more effective enforcement. I am asking the Cabinet Secretary (K M Chandrasekhar) to look into these issues and report back to the Cabinet within the next month", he said.

The effort of the government, the Prime Minister said, would be to provide a "level-playing field for private businesses, free from fear or favour".

The Prime Minister's remarks come against the backdrop of Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata expressing serious concerns over conversations between him and corporate lobbyist Niira Radia making their way to media. He used strong words like India facing the threat of becoming a banana republic.

HDFC Chairman Deepak Parekh too had expressed concern over telephone tapping and leakage of 'private conversations' in public domain, and said the episode had hurt the morale of the industry.

Part of the 5000-odd telephone conversations recorded by the Income Tax Authorities between Radia and bigwigs including businessmen, politicians and press persons have found their way to the media and the Internet.

First Published: Dec 14, 2010 11:40 IST