Concerned over the illegal phone tapping of MPs, the Parliament Standing Committee on Home Affairs wants the security agencies to take permission from the presiding officers of the House concerned before intercepting the calls.
The recommendation came in the backdrop of private individuals’ unauthorised accessing to call data record (CDR) of Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley.
The panel asked the Home Ministry to formulate strict guidelines on phone tapping of politicians suggesting that authorised agency should inform the party chief if it wishes to monitor the calls of political leaders. Eight law enforcement and intelligence agencies are authorised by the Centre to intercept telephone calls.
In its report tabled on Thursday, the panel said there were alleged reports of the country’s elite intelligence agencies also being involved in unauthorised interception of calls.
“The committee is of the view that there should be a mandatory rules to tap telephonic conversation of a sitting Member of Parliament. For this, permission of the presiding officer of the House concerned should be solicited,” the committee said.
Union Home Secretary R K Singh told the panel that there was a proper procedure for monitoring phone calls with several cross checks. He said an off-the-air monitoring system used to intercept calls has been imported by the state’s special branch and other private agencies. They have been asked to deposit the system.
“Some have been deposited, many have not been deposited. Some agencies have confessed having it. So, we are on the alert,” Singh told the panel. According to the Supreme Court guidelines, the Union Home Secretary has to approve if agencies want to monitor and record a phone and is valid for two months unless extension granted in some rare cases. Guidelines also suggest that tapping must be restricted to specific target and a review committee is responsible to ascertain whether tapping of the target phone was in the interest of national security. The interception request by authorised agencies also needs to be confirmed by a committee comprising Cabinet Secretary, Telecom Secretary and Law Secretary.
Appearing before the panel, Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar said they have amended the existing procedure of obtaining call data records of individuals.
He said earlier ACP could authorise CDR, but now it could be accessed only after DCP’s recommendation.
He further stated the Delhi Police are also mulling a proposal which makes the approval of Joint Commissioner of Police mandatory for obtaining call data records.