I’m aware of corporate nervousness over phone tapping: PM

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NEW DELHI - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday said he was aware of the “nervousness in the corporate sector” over phone tapping and asked Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar to look into the matter and submit a report within a month.

“I am aware of the nervousness in the corporate sector arising out of the powers conferred upon the government authorities to tap the phones for protecting national security and preventing tax evasion and money laundering,” Manmohan Singh said at the inaugural session of the India Corporate Week here.

The prime minister’s comments came in the light of Tata group chairman Ratan Tata expressing serious reservations over the leakage of his tapped conversations with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia to the media — over which he also moved the Supreme Court.

Manmohan Singh said: “While these powers are needed, they have to be exercised with utmost care and under well defined rules, procedures and mechanism so that they are not misused.”

“Legal mechanisms already in place should be stringent for more effective enforcement. I am asking the cabinet secretary to look into these issues and report back to the cabinet within the next month,” the prime minister added.

According to a government affidavit in the apex court, Radia’s phone was initially tapped following a complaint that she was allegedly an agent of foreign intelligence agencies and had amassed Rs.300 crore in a span of just nine years.

Later, the scope and duration of the wiretap was extended when some conversations were found “sensitive” in the matter relating to award of airwaves to telecom companies, the affidavit said.

The award of telecom airwaves is now being termed a major scandal by the opposition, which stalled proceedings of the entire winter session of parliament demanding a probe into it by a joint parliamentary panel.

DMK leader A. Raja even had to resign as communications minister last month when the official audit institution indicted him in what is called the alleged second generation (2G) spectrum scam.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India had said Raja’s policy had caused a notional loss of billions of rupees to the exchequer by resorting to giving airwaves away to telecom companies on a first-come-first-served basis, rather than through an auction.

Filed under: Economy

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