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Phone tapping and privacy in india

phone tapping

Phone tapping and privacy


• In a case of alleged phone tapping of officials in high positions in the country, the Home Ministry told the Delhi High Court that law enforcement agencies tap phones for sovereignty and the integrity of the country.

• This is not the first case of phone tapping, even before this, there has been a lot of controversy in the country and there has been debate about the rules and its purpose.

• Some people consider it a violation of privacy, while some people have been questioning the intent of the law and guidelines of phone tapping. However, the Indian Telegraph Amendment Rules, 2007 empowers the Central and State Governments to conduct phone tapping.

• If a law enforcement agency feels that there is a need to tap the phone in public safety or national interest, then in that case a phone call can be recorded.

▪ Background-

• There is also a history of phone tapping in our country. According to the Telegraph Act of 1885 which has been in existence since the British era, phone tapping is not a completely illegal activity.

• Since there has been no amendment in this law for a long time. Therefore, a few years ago guidelines in this regard were also issued.

• Under this arrangement, telephone tapping would require prior approval of the Central or State Government Home Secretary level officer.

• This permission is valid for 60 days only. This period cannot be extended beyond 180 days under special circumstances.

What is phone tapping?

• Phone tapping means listening or recording any communication channel (especially telephone) to obtain information in secret. It is also known as 'wiretapping' or Interception in some countries (mainly in the USA).

• This can be done only after obtaining permission from the concerned department in an authorized manner.

• If done in an unauthorized manner, it is illegal and a person responsible for breach of privacy can be criminally prosecuted.

what is phone tapping

 Legal provisions on phone tapping

• Article 21 of the Constitution of India states that "according to the procedures established by law, 'no person shall be deprived of his life or his personal liberty.'

• The expression 'Personal Liberty' includes 'Right to Privacy'.

• A citizen has the right to privacy in relation to his / her family, education, marriage, motherhood, child and offspring etc. apart from personal privacy.

• Human rights also believe that it is necessary to protect a person from intrusion into his / her privacy.

• The Supreme Court has also clearly stated in its many decisions that the right to privacy cannot be violated and if it is necessary to do so, it can be done only by following the rules under the constitutional provisions.

• Apart from this, Article 19 (1) of the The constitution talks about freedom of speech and expression. If there are some restrictions in it, then it can be imposed under Article 19 (2) which states that keeping in view the public interest and the safety of the state and in this context rules can be made under other laws.

Keeping these provisions in mind, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 has been amended to provide for section 5 (2) so that telephone intercepts (tapes) can be made if required in the safety and public the interest of the state.

 Is this a violation of the right to privacy?

• The act of telephone tapping affects the right to privacy as well as the right to freedom of speech and expression. Both of these are fundamental rights conferred under the Constitution.

• Several petitions were filed in the Supreme Court over misuse of phone tapping and it was said that this is done without any proper reason.


• In this regard, the Supreme Court laid down certain guidelines in the case of PUCL v. Union of India in 1997 and in compliance of these instructions, the Government formed a committee and similar committees were also formed in the States.

• As per the Supreme Court guidelines, in relation to telephone tapping of a person, it will be mandatory to seek the permission of the Home Secretary of that state and the tapping agency has to explain the reason for the tapping.

In addition to this, provisions have been made for how long it will be kept after tapping and for what purpose it will be used.

• The problem arises when the private telephone companies misuse it without following the procedure and the problem of enforcement of the process comes because the person tapping the phone does not himself know that his phone tape or his conversation is being recorded Or it is being misused.
 • The Central and State Governments have been empowered to intercept the telephone under Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraphic Act, 1885.

• There are instances when an investigating authority/agency is required to record the phone conversation of a person who is under suspicion.

Such officers must obtain the permission of the Ministry of Home Affairs before doing such work.

• Right to privacy is not above national interest and national security. Misuse of any law, weapon, device is inevitable.

Right of privacy about telephone tapping

Remedies -

• Phone tapping in an illegal manner is a violation of the right to privacy and the aggrieved person can lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

• Any person having knowledge of illegal phone tapping can register an FIR at the nearest police station.

• Further, the aggrieved person can knock the the door of the court against an unauthorized phone tapping person/company under Section 26 (b) of the Indian Telegraphic Act and the accused can be punished for three years.

Right of privacy about telephone tapping

• As stated in a recent Supreme Court judgment, the right to privacy is an integral part of the right to life which is enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

• Intercepting a person's telephone without any notice is a violation of that person's right to privacy. But in special circumstances, it can be done by the government.

• The government has been empowered to do so under section 5 (2) of the Telegraph Act.


According to Section 5 (2) of the Telegraph Act, if phone tapping is done in the public interest or national interest then it is not a violation of the right to privacy. Equipment have also come in this technological age, with the help of which 10 km is sitting at home. Phones can be taped to anyone in the range of. It is a matter of satisfaction that it is illegal to do so in India. But with the arrival of private players in the region, the possibility of its misuse cannot be ruled out. Therefore, it needs more effective control. If this is not done then private players can create a crisis and an empire of blackmailing may arise.

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