The Union government has told Delhi High Court that under relevant provisions of Indian Telegraph Act, a secretary in-charge of the home department of states are “empowered” to intercept messages. The submission of the Centre came against a plea by YSR Congress Party leaders in the high court, alleging that their phones are being tapped at the behest of the ruling party at the Centre for “sabotaging their political meetings” in Andhra Pradesh.
The Centre, however, refrained from a direct reply on whether the YSRCP leaders’ phones were being tapped. The counsel for the Ministry of Home Affairs told Justice Najmi Waziri that if they admit to doing so, there will be plenty of applications on similar issues.
The plea has claimed that a request was made to the ministry concerned in December last year to stop the surveillance and conduct an impartial probe into the matter. It has alleged that the ministry never replied to the representation by YSR Congress.
On this, the counsel apprised the court that the Ministry of Home Affairs has forwarded their representation to Andhra Pradesh government for appropriate action. It further stated that as “per section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 read with Rule 419-A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, Secretary In-charge of Home Affairs of the State Governments are empowered to order /interception of messages”.
The judge said it wants to hear “on section 5(2) of the Act” from the government’s counsel on February 25. The plea by the YSRCP’s former MP Y V Subba Reddy and five others urged the court to direct the government to “forthwith suspend the ignoble action of placing them under unlawful and unguided surveillance”.