Govt committed to citizens' privacy; tapping under probe: HM
Under attack for alleged telephone tapping, government on Thursday said it will consider amending rules to strengthen and protect citizens' privacy.
Home Minister P Chidambaram said in the Rajya Sabha that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has directed that the government should "get to the bottom" of the tapping controversy.
Assuring the Rajya Sabha that the government will get to the bottom of illegal interception, if any, Chidambaram said it "has become necessary to review" whether the NTRO, equipped with telephone interception technology, be shifted from National Security Adviser to a minister, who will be accountable to Parliament.
At present, NTRO is accountable to the NSA who reports directly to the Prime Minister. He has conveyed his proposal to the Prime Minister, he said winding up a discussion on the issue.
Disagreeing with the Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley, Chidamabaram said the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and other enforcement agencies have powers to intercept messages if the nation's financial security was threatened. This has also been upheld by the Supreme Court.
Jaitely, an eminently lawyer, had argued that mere suspicion of tax evasion cannot be equated with 'public safety' and 'public emergency' - the only two situations which allow the government to intercept messages.
Referring to media reports about telephone tapping and role of lobbyists in policymaking, Chidamarabam said he could not comment on their authenticity. "(But) the Prime Minister has directed that we must get to the bottom" of the issue.
The government would certainly find out whether any unauthorised interception took place, he said. "Further enquiries are being made into the allegations. The matter will be thoroughly investigated and action taken against those responsible," he said.