Date: 29 November, 2020
•Phone tapping means discreetly having access to communication on the telephone to get information about other activities. Phone Tapping can only be done in an authorized manner only after taking necessary permissions from the department concerned.
•In light of this rather gaping legislative void, the law applicable to situations such as recording of a phone call without knowledge is often not direct, or fully tested by judicial interpretation.
•This holds in case of such a recording being conducted by any person as opposed to such an act by a governmental authority or agency of the State.
•It is not only enshrined under the Indian Constitution but also Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and UDHR i.e. International Bill on Human Rights. The right to privacy is not expressly defined under the Constitution, but telephone conversation and messaging is an integral part of a man's private life.
•The right to privacy includes telephone-conversation in the privacy of one's personal space. Telephone-tapping would contribute towards infringement of Article 21 of the Constitution unless it is permitted under the procedure established by law.
•Now, SC in several cases has ruled that the right to hold a telephonic conversation without any interference, is a part of the right to privacy. So, phone tapping in India is governed by the Indian Telegraph Act 1885.
•Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraph Act provides the right to intercept telephones by State and Central Government.
• Evidently, 'Right to Privacy' is not absolute and is subject to the procedure established by law. Thereby, section 5 of the Telegraph Act permits telephone tapping and authorizes the government to take possession of licensed telegraphs and to order interception of messages.
• For the purpose of safeguarding the public, the State government or Union government or any person specifically empowered by the Central or State government, if satisfied that it is compulsory to do so, may take temporary possession of any telegraph established, maintained or worked by any person licensed under the said provision of Indian Telegraph Act.
•The terms 'intercept' and 'interception' can be understood in light of the meaning accorded to these terms by making conclusions from other related legislations. Usually 'interception' refers to an act of listening in and recording communications, intended for another party to obtain intelligence.
•It is an undeniable fact that advancement in technology has brought the world closer than before. But as long as criminals and terrorists misuse this advancement in fulfilment of their motives, the government will also put some counter-measures in place, which may intrude on our private lives.
• Tapping or intercepting calls, messages, and emails can be considered as a necessary evil. The problem with these kinds of issues is that everyone criticizes them, but not many of them stay away from using these techniques to invade the common man's privacy.
• Owing to the facts stated above, even if the procedure is not scrapped entirely, there should be an extent to which it should be practised. If it is not regulated, the private lives of people will be at serious risk.