Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, contended before a bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud that the court had directed the CBI to investigate all these conversations and 14 preliminary inquiries were registered and the report was placed before the court in a sealed cover.
Bhati said: “No criminality was found in those. Also, now there are phone-tapping guidelines in place.”
The CBI had submitted a sealed cover report in 2015 regarding the outcome of the court-ordered probe and the case wasn’t taken up by the apex court in all these years.
“The outcome of the investigation has also been forwarded to the departments concerned,” Bhati submitted before the bench, also comprising Justices P.S. Narasimha and Hima Kohli.
NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation pressed for a probe into the tapes and demanded that they all be made public. The CBI is likely to file a fresh status report, when the matter is scheduled to be taken up by the apex court in October.
The apex court in October 2013 directed the CBI to examine 14 issues that were identified by the agency after examining the transcripts of over 5,800 taped conversations of Radia.
Over a decade ago, Radia’s phone conversations with industrialists, journalists, government officers, and other people holding key posts were tapped as part of a tax investigation. Ratan N. Tata, Chairman emeritus Tata Sons, had moved the apex court seeking protection of his right to privacy against the backdrop of leaked private conversations involving Radia.
Tata filed the petition in 2011. He had contended that the release of the tapes amounted to infringement on his right to privacy. The case was last heard in April 2014, and the top court crystallised the issues — right to privacy vis-a-vis the government, right to privacy vis-a-vis the media, and the right to information.
Tata had sought a probe into who had leaked the excerpts from the intercepts and also a mechanism in place to guard against such indiscriminate invasion into a citizen’s privacy.
In August 2017, the apex court, in a landmark verdict, had said that privacy is a constitutional right. Nine judges were unanimous in their finding, however they cited different reasons for their conclusion.