SC fumes at government in Radia case

New Delhi, Aug 22 (IANS) Fuming over not being effectively assisted by the government, the Supreme Court Thursday sought the original records on the basis of which former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia's phones were allowed to be intercepted in 2008-09.

"It is very unfortunate that government of India's counsel is not able to render effective assistance (to the court)," said an apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, hauling up the counsel for not bringing the case records.

As Additional Solicitor General P.P. Malhotra sought to make a point, the court retorted saying that it would not hear him till he brought the records.

Fixing the matter for Aug 27, the court said it would first deal with Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and Rule 419-A of the Indian Telegraph Rules 1951 dealing with procedural safeguards.

While Section 5(2) spells out the powers of the government to order interception of messages (wire surveillance), Rule 419-A says that such interception of messages can only take place on the orders of union home secretary or secretary, department of home affairs in the states.

However, there are relaxations in case of dealing with emergent situations.

Earlier in the course of the hearing, both the former Tata group chairman Ratan Tata and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were on the same page in advocating the prosecution of the government official who leaked tapes of Radia's recorded phone conversations to media.

NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation said that the official who leaked the tapes should get the protection deserved by a whistleblower as he exposed the wrong doings in governance.

Senior counsel Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the CPIL, told the court that nothing of private nature had come in public domain by way of leak of Radia tapes.

Appearing for Tata, senior counsel Harish Salve told the court that till date government had not given any justification for carrying out wire surveillance of Radia's phones.

In the absence of ostensible reasons for putting Radia's phones under surveillance, Salve told the court that a feeling was inescapable that the reasons for recording her phones were not fair.

Salve also did some tough talking over the way media carried unverified reports and allegations thereby compromising the reputation of people and lowering their esteem.

The senior counsel said that except for what was told the court or what the court said by way of its judgment, if media took out an affidavit from the case records and published defamatory allegations then it could not escape its consequences.

Salve said that the question was how media accessed certain information.

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