Centre, CBI told to file response on plea over phone tapping

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New Delhi, Jan 15 : The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Central government and the CBI to reply to a plea seeking direction to constitute a SIT to look into the abuse of power by some officials of the investigating agency by illegally tapping phone calls.

A division bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao asked the Centre and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to file their reply and listed the matter for further hearing on March 26.

The court was hearing a plea filed by lawyer and social activist Sarthak Chaturvedi, who has also sought a direction to the Centre for framing comprehensive guidelines regarding tracing, tapping and surveillance of phone calls.

The plea also sought accountability of officials.

Quoting an application filed by senior CBI officer Manish Sinha in the Supreme Court, the plea claimed that mobile numbers of several individuals who had made phone calls to Special CBI Director Rakesh Asthana were illegally intercepted by the special unit.

“On October 17, the Director CBI briefed Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor (NSA) and informed him that Asthana’s name is cited in the FIR. Subsequently, on the same night, it was informed by Special Unit to Manish Sinha that NSA has informed Asthana about registration of FIR. It was informed that Asthana reportedly made a request to NSA that he should not be arrested,” the plea read.

The plea asked: “Did they illegally intercept calls of NSA and Asthana?”

Chaturvedi requested the court to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the abuse of powers by some highly placed CBI officials by illegally intercepting phone calls of individuals without following due procedures.

He said that some CBI officials were misusing their powers for ulterior motives.

The Special Unit (SU) of the CBI deals with phone tapping and technical surveillance. It is headed by a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) rank official.

“…immediately after the news broke out about arrest of Manoj Prasad, Somesh Prasad made calls to Samant Goel, who made calls to Asthana. There were four calls between Somesh and Samant Goel and four calls between Samant Goel and Asthana by October 17 afternoon,” the plea read.

“There was also a call between Dineshwar Prasad (father of Somesh Prasad and Manoj Prasad) with Samant Goel, Special Secretary, RAW. It establishes that mobile numbers of Manoj, Somesh, Samant, Dineshwar and Asthana were intercepted illegally by Rakesh Rathi, DIG, SU.”

He told the court that at that time Rathi was heading the SU and reporting to A.K. Sharma, Head of Policy Division, and eventually to Alok Verma, then CBI Director.

The CBI has not formulated any guideline to deal with tracing, tapping and surveillance of phone calls.

Chaturvedi said tracing, tapping and surveillance of phone calls directly and indirectly affects national security and intelligence.

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