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Delhi High Court Stays CIC Order Requiring TRAI To Furnish Alleged Phone Tapping Information To Advocate Under RTI Act

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
10 Aug 2021 12:12 PM GMT
Delhi High Court Stays CIC Order Requiring TRAI To Furnish Alleged Phone Tapping Information To Advocate Under RTI Act
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The Delhi High Court on Monday stayed an order of the Central information Commission (CIC), requiring the Telecom Authority of India (TRAI) to collect and furnish information about alleged tapping of an Advocate's phone, in terms of the Right to Information Act.A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing a LPA preferred by TRAI from a single bench order...

The Delhi High Court on Monday stayed an order of the Central information Commission (CIC), requiring the Telecom Authority of India (TRAI) to collect and furnish information about alleged tapping of an Advocate's phone, in terms of the Right to Information Act.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing a LPA preferred by TRAI from a single bench order refusing to interfere with the impugned order of the CIC which held that under Section 12 of TRAI Act, the authority has power to call for any information, conduct investigations, etc. and that it is the obligation on the authority to get information from the private body and furnish the same to the applicant namely Kabir Shankar Bose (Respondent herein).

The Respondent, an Advocate by profession, apprehended that his phone is being tapped. Stating that it is an issue involving right to privacy, his counsel Advocate Kanika Singhal urged the Court to dismiss the appeal.

TRAI's counsel Advocate Maneesha Dhir argued that tapping and surveillance is done through designated power under the Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act and that TRAI has no role in the matter.

After hearing both the parties at length, the Division Bench observed,

"List this case for final hearing on 13th December, 2021. Till then, the order of the CIC shall remain stayed. Prima facie the case in favour of Appellant (TRAI). Balance of convenience is also in favour of the Appellant. Irreparable damage will be caused if the impugned order is not stayed."

In its plea, TRAI had submitted that any direction for interception of any message or class of messages is done as per section 5 of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951- by an order made by the Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Home Affairs in the case of Government of India and by the Secretary to the State Government in charge of the Home Department in the case of a State Government. It contended that the impugned judgment is contrary to the provisions of law in as much as the law enforcement agencies are authorized to intercept/tap the phones and any disclosure would render the entire exercise as infructuous.

It added,

"any data pertaining to phone tapping cannot be collated by TRAI, as a public authority and then supplied to the Respondent. It is submitted that such information pertaining to phone tapping fall within the scope of Section 8 of the RTI Act and thus, exempted from disclosure, as any information pertaining to any. alleged phone tapping is such information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of the nation.

The impugned judgment.is untenable as it failed to consider that TRAI is empowered under Section 12(1) of the TRAI Act to call upon any Service Provider to furnish such information as considered necessary for the proper functioning of the service providers only if such information is required for the discharge of the functions assigned to it. Such power to call upon information cannot be exercised for the purposes that are alien to the functions of the TRAI as specified in Section 11 of the TRAI Act."

Case Title: TRAI v. Kabir Shankar Bose

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