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Allowing illegally intercepted messages as evidence violate fundamental rights: Delhi HC

Justice Chandra Dhari Singh said that rules framed under Telegraph Act require that the order granting permission to intercept telephone conversations is to be forwarded to the review committee within seven days of the order.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: January 18, 2022 7:35:35 pm
In its order, the court also said that as per Section 5 (2) of Telegraph Act, an order for interception can be issued on either occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety as per the SC law.

Setting aside charges framed by the trial court against an accused in a corruption case, the Delhi High Court has said that if illegally intercepted messages or audio conversations are permitted as evidence, it would lead to “manifest arbitrariness” and promote “scant regard” to the procedure and fundamental rights of the citizens, and the law laid down by Supreme Court.

Justice Chandra Dhari Singh said that rules framed under Telegraph Act require that the order granting permission to intercept telephone conversations is to be forwarded to the review committee within seven days of the order.

“This court does not find any material on record to establish that any review of the order of the Home Secretary was conducted in compliance of the aforesaid rules framed under the Telegraph Act,” the court said.

It said mandatory requirements for placing reliance on such audio conversations have not been fulfilled.

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In 2010, CBI had registered a case alleging that then Medical Council of India president, Dr Ketan Desai, had entered into a criminal conspiracy with Jatinder Pal Singh, who was called an alleged Delhi-based middleman, and others to grant permission to Gian Sagar Medical College and Hospital, Patiala, for admission to the fourth batch of MBBS course for the 2011-12 session despite alleged deficiencies. The CBI had recovered Rs 2 crore, alleged to be illegal gratification, from Singh’s residence. The main accused, Desai, was discharged from the case by High Court in 2018.

Singh’s counsel had argued that illegal tapping of telephone conversation is a violation of the right to privacy and has been reinforced as a fundamental right, protected under Article 21 by a nine Judge Constitution Bench decision in K S Puttaswamy v. Union of India.

In its order, the court also said that as per Section 5 (2) of Telegraph Act, an order for interception can be issued on either occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety as per the law laid down by Supreme Court in the PUCL case.

“Tape records of calls intercepted in the instant case are not admissible since due procedure for such interception as mandated by the Telegraph Act and Rules framed thereunder has not been followed. Further, even the same has not been verified in FSL report. No further witness/evidence to implicate the petitioner is on record,” reads the order.

Holding that there was no rationale of committing the alleged offence of giving bribe, as no auditorium was required to be constructed as a condition before conducting admission of the 4th batch of MBBS course, the court said the approver, on the basis of whose statement Singh has been made an accused, was impleaded in the case without sanction from the appropriate authorities.

“Nothing as alleged in the recorded conversation intercepted by the investigating agency forms direct basis or has any connection whatsoever with the need for bribery, nor is there any rationale for offering of the alleged bribe. The recovery made has also been explained and accounted for by the Petitioner with evidence as being a part of the advance received by the Petitioner in lieu of sale of his village land,” Justice Singh said in the order.

The court also noted that the “main conspirator” has been already discharged and in absence of evidence implicating Singh as a co-conspirator, there is no point in continuing with the case and keep the entire criminal justice machinery running endlessly.

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