Former Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata today came to the Supreme Court to witness the hearing in the matter relating to taped conversation of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with corporate leaders, politicians and others.
The court is hearing a petition filed by Tata in which he had sought action against those involved in the leakage of tapes containing his conversation with Radia.
Tata, in his petition, has contended that the leakage of the tapes have infringed upon his fundamental Right to Life, which includes right to privacy.
He arrived in the courtroom at around 11 AM accompanied by advocate Raian Karanjawala and some executives.
Later a Tata Sons spokesperson said, "Mr Ratan Tata has filed this writ petition on a matter of principle. He believes privacy is an important right for every individual and is keenly following the progress of this case."
His lawyer today told the Supreme Court that the government has been "lackadaisical" in finding out how the tapped telephonic conversations of Niira Radia with top politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen including him were leaked.
Pleading for direction to ensure that conversations tapped by government agencies are not leaked and misused, Tata's counsel Harish Salve submitted that an independent review committee should be formed to examine the contents of the tapes and take a decision as to whether they have to be preserved or destroyed.
Salve, appearing before a bench also comprising Justice K S Radhakrishnan, said there is need for an independent panel as the committee which reviews intercepted calls is headed by the Cabinet Secretary who is too busy to look into numerous cases of phone tapping in the country.
"There is a lackadaisical approach on part of government in finding out the source of leakage. It has carefully designed to exculpate the Income Tax Department and its officials (who tapped the phone). They wanted to give themselves clean chit and pointing towards CBI for the leakage," he said.
"What did the government do when the information came to light. Somebody in the government should have been worried. If this kind of information can be leaked then anything can be leaked," Salve said.
The bench also agreed with the submissions that there is "very large number of (phone) interception taking place and multiple committees may be formed to review all the cases".
He submitted that plea of Tata is not to prevent media from publishing his personal conversation with Radia but for protecting the right to privacy of citizens of the country.
"A body is needed to do the task full time, only then it could devote sufficient time to deal with the cases. In the present environment it is the best, if the government be excluded from review committee," Salve said.
Apprehending that corporate entities having stakes in various media houses could also misuse it to settle scores with each other, Salve said balance has to be maintained between freedom of press and right to privacy of person.
"There has to be audit of such activities to ensure that law and safeguard of people's right to privacy is truly complied with," he said adding "Government has a tendency to get phone calls tapped and balancing has to be done between right to privacy and right of media to publish the contents".
Against the backdrop of leak of CBI's confidential report submitted to the apex court on Radia tapes, the CBI said the issue needed to be probed.
"It has to be investigated. The document was confidential and was only for judges. It is court's property. This should not have been leaked. It has to be investigated," senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for CBI, submitted.
© Copyright PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of any PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.