Phone tapping: Position in India

May 12th, 201010:11 pm @    


cellphoneLast month both the houses of the Parliament were in a state of upheaval over a phenomenon called ‘phone tapping’. Gradually media converted it into yet another national issue, but it got muddled with the simultaneous Indian Premier League controversy and left people wondering about the intricacies of phone tapping. So here is everything you might be like to know about the concept in question!

What is Phone Tapping?

Phone tapping means secretly listening or/and recording a communication channel (esp. a telephone) in order to get information. It is also known as ‘wire-tapping’ in some countries (primarily in USA). It can only be done in an authorized manner with permission from the department concerned. If it is undertaken in an unauthorized manner then it is illegal and will result in prosecution of the person responsible for breach of privacy.


What is the required procedure for Phone tapping in India?

Both, the Central and the State Governments have a right to tap phones under section 5 of Indian Telegraphic Act, 1885. There are times when an investigating authority/agency needs to record the phone conversations of the person who is under suspicion. The authority/agency per se does not have privilege of tapping calls of anyone they fancy. It is supposed to seek permission from the Home Ministry before going ahead with such an act. Specific reasons have to be mentioned in the application, also it must be explained that how tapping will help in further investigation of the case. The ministry considers the request and grants permission if it the reason specified seems fit, otherwise the request is denied.

If the agency/authority is granted permission to tap the calls then it contacts the service provider of the telephone/mobile being used by the suspect. Every service provider possesses technology required for phone tapping. The service provider moves ahead with the specified task and provides data to the investigating agency/authority.


What can be done tapping takes place in an unauthorized manner?

  • Unauthorized tapping is violation of the right to privacy. The person can file a complaint in the Human Rights Commission.
  • An FIR can be lodged in the nearest Police Station when unauthorized phone tapping comes into the knowledge of the person.
  • The aggrieved person can move to court against the person/company doing the act in an unauthorized manner under section 26 (b) of the Indian Telegraphic Act, which provides for 3 year imprisonment for persons held for tapping. The person (s) can also be prosecuted for authorized tapping but sharing of the data in an authorized manner.

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Co-Founder of MightyLaws.in. She is currently pursuing BA.LLB(Hons) from National Law Institute University, Bhopal. She has a strong belief that increasing legal awareness is the key to ensure social justice and simplification of law is the means to achieve it.

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