The Delhi High Court Tuesday issued notice to the Centre and CBI on a petition alleging illegal phone tapping of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, then Law Secretary Suresh Chandra and some senior CBI officers.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao directed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and CBI to file their replies on the petition filed by advocate Sarthak Chaturvedi. “Respondents (MHA and CBI) need to respond to the serious allegations raised by way of public interest litigation,” the bench said on the petition which sought a direction to constitute a SIT to look into the alleged abuse of power by some CBI officers.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on March 26.
The petitioner has also sought a direction to the CBI for framing comprehensive guidelines regarding tracing, tapping and surveillance of phone calls along with preparation of stocks and accountability of officials.
Citing the bitter fights within the CBI, its former Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, against whom an FIR of extortion and bribery was lodged by the agency, the PIL said “public servants working in said organization need to conduct themselves in a manner so that integrity of the institution is maintained”. It said the Special Unit (SU) of the CBI deals with phone tapping and technical surveillance and is headed by a DIG-rank official.
“During investigation of FIR dated 15.10.2018, an accused Manoj Prasad was intercepted by CBI at Delhi airport and was brought to headquarters at New Delhi. The phone numbers of Manoj Prasad and Somesh Prasad were under technical surveillance by DIG, SU, CBI,” the plea said, seeking investigation whether any permission was obtained as per rules.
It alleged that the SU had placed many numbers on technical surveillance and was analysing call data records. “It was informed that immediately after the news broke on arrest of Manoj Prasad, Somesh Prasad made immediate calls to Samant Goel, who made calls to Rakesh Asthana. There were four calls between Somesh and Samant Goel and four calls between Samant Goel and Rakesh Asthana by 17.10.2018 afternoon.”
“There was also a call between Dineshwar Prasad (father of Somesh Prasad and Manoj Prasad) with Samant Goel, Special Secretary, RAW. It establishes that mobile numbers of Manoj, Somesh, Samant, Dineshwar and Rakesh Asthana, were intercepted illegally by Rakesh Rathi, DIG, SU,” the plea alleged. It further stated that on October 17, 2018, Verma had briefed Doval and informed him that Asthana’s name was cited in the FIR. “Subsequently on the same night, it was informed by SU to (CBI DIG) Manish Sinha that NSA has informed Asthana about registration of FIR,” the plea said, adding that “Asthana reportedly made a request to NSA that he should not be arrested.”
“How did SU learnt this? Did they illegally intercept calls of NSA and Asthana,” the plea said.
The petition said that at that time Rathi was heading the SU and reporting to A K Sharma, Head of Policy Division, and eventually to Verma.
It said then Law Secretary Chandra had claimed he was not in London on November 8, 2018 when he, as stated in the writ petition filed by transferred DIG Manish Sinha, allegedly reached out to businessman Satish Babu Sana, a key figure in the entire episode, through an Andhra Pradesh cadre IAS officer.
“The phone of Law Secretary was also tapped and put under surveillance,” the plea alleged, adding that the MHA has till date not formulated a stringent policy or guidelines to deal with tracing and surveillance of phone calls.