Source of Radia tapes’ leak unknown, court told


New Delhi: The government Thursday told the Supreme Court that it was unable to identify the source that leaked the tapes of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia’s intercepted telephone conversations.

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The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya was given this information by the government in a status report.

Industrialist Ratan Tata had petitioned the court seeking the enforcement of his right to privacy by restraining the unauthorized publication of the transcripts of the tapes.

The interception of Radia’s telephones unearthed the 2G scam.

Appearing for Ratan Tata, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi told the apex court that the leak was linked to a fight between two corporate houses and one of the two owned a media house and used it to hit his rival. Having hit its rival, the corporate media house sought to camouflage it as freedom of press.

He said that the media needed to balance its right to freedom to publish with others’ right to privacy.

The senior counsel contended that the media was under an obligation to verify its report with the person who was likely to be affected by it.

“The media’s right to publish should be balanced with my right to privacy,” Rohtagi told the court.

As Rohtagi sought to chide the media, the court observed that it was playing an important role.

The court said that the freedom of press was more important today than it ever was. The court pointed to a media report which said that a person bled to death in Indore in Madhya Pradesh while police were busy completing the paper work.

While the court appreciated the role of the media in highlighting the public good, it said that, at times, there were certain abrasions. The court reminded the senior counsel of his submission that the media was controlled by corporate interests.

Rohtagi said that “the possibility of these abrasions must come down”.

Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising in her written submission told the court that the telephone lines of Ratan Tata were not intercepted under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, hence there was no violation of his rights.

The court was told that Radia, whose telephones were intercepted, had not filed any petition in the apex court or any other court complaining the “alleged violation” of her rights.

Appearing for the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, counsel Prashant Bhushan pleaded for making public the Radia tapes.

He favoured holding back the part of the conversation that was private in nature and bringing the rest in the public domain.

Radia and her associates’ phones were put under surveillance by the Income Tax department after the home ministry received an anonymous letter alleging her foreign connection and her spectacular rise in a short span of a few years.