Rajasthan HC Declares Phone Tapping Orders as Violation of Right to Privacy; Directs State to Erase Intercepted Messages

Phonetapping Right to Privacy Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: 26 July 2023 at 00:37 IST

The Rajasthan High Court, Jaipur Bench, has held that orders authorizing phone tapping amount to a violation of an individual’s Right to Privacy, as enshrined in the Constitution.

The court has directed the state to delete all intercepted messages and recordings, along with their copies, citing the failure of authorities to record reasons in writing.

Justice Birendra Kumar, presiding over a Single Bench, emphasized that the authorities must strictly follow procedural safeguards to prevent arbitrary infringement of the right to privacy. The court pointed out that the lack of written reasons in accordance with sub-section (2) of Section 5 renders the impugned orders arbitrary and unconstitutional.

In this particular case, the petitioner sought to quash the order passed by the Secretary (Home), Government of Rajasthan, which allowed the interception of mobile phones belonging to the petitioner and others. The interception was purportedly carried out under the authority of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau had ordered the interception of the mobile phone of the co-accused on suspicion of its involvement in illegal activities that posed a threat to public safety. The interception, initially permitted for 60 days, was extended for another 60 days based on the same grounds, leading to the interception of the petitioner’s mobile phones as well.

The petitioner challenged the surveillance, contending that it infringed upon their right to privacy and subjected them to unwarranted spying by state machinery.

The High Court, after careful examination, observed that the statutory provisions should be strictly adhered to and not treated casually. In this case, the impugned orders were not submitted to the Review Committee, as required by law, and lacked any recorded reasons, contrary to the statutory provisions.

The Court stressed the importance of complying with these procedures to prevent illegal interception of messages, which would otherwise lead to contempt and arbitrariness.

The Court, drawing from the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the PUCL case, reinforced and approved in the Puttaswamy case, held that the orders suffered from manifest arbitrariness and threatened to violate the fundamental rights of citizens as established by the Supreme Court. Consequently, the court allowed the writ petition and quashed the interception orders.

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