LE Correspondent

New Delhi, June 15, 2022: While dismissing a writ petition instituted under Article 226 r/w Article 227 of the Constitution against the order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs whereby interception of telephonic calls of the petitioner was permitted, the Delhi High Court has opined that that for the purpose of making an order for interception of messages in exercise of powers under Section 5(2)  of the Telegraph Act, the occurrence of any public emergency or the existence of a public safety interest are the sine qua non.

The Bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh observed that the present matter pertained to corruption which endangers public safety and economic crimes ultimately affect the economic stability and safety of the country and its citizens . 

Facts of the present case were such that permission for interception of telephonic calls of the petitioner was granted by the MHA by an order dated January 30, 2018. In pursuance of the same, FIR was registered under Sections 7/ 8/ 12/13(2) read with 13 (1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.  Consequently, a raid was conducted on the same day and four persons including the petitioner were taken into custody. 

However, bail was granted to the petitioner by the Special Judge.  Subsequently, charge sheet was filed by the Special Judge on December 23, 2019 . The perusal of the charge sheet and the FIR indicated that the case of the first respondent was based on the interception of the telephonic conversation amongst the accused persons upon taking prior approval from the MHA. The Special Judge took cognizance of the offences punishable under Sections 7/8/12/13(1) read with 13(2) of the PC Act and substantive offences thereof. Hence, the present appeal was instituted by the petitioner.  The issue which was put forth by the petitioner was that the interception of his telephonic calls hindered his Right to Privacy enshrined under fundamental right to life and personal liberty.

The Court observed that the disclosure of elaborate reasons for interception orders would be against the modified disclosure requirements of procedural fairness which have been universally deemed acceptable for the protection of other facets of public including the source of information leading to the detection of crime or other wrongdoing, sensitive intelligence information and other information supplied in confidence for the purpose of government or discharge of certain public functions.  Further reliance was placed on the judgments of the Apex Court in Maneka  Gandhi  Vs. Union of India, A.K. Gopalan vs. State of Madras, K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India in order to discuss the aspects of  right to privacy and reasonable regulations made by the State to protect legitimate State interests or public interest.

The Bench concluded the matter by observing that the impugned order of the interception as well as the interception carried out were fair , reasonable and in accordance with law. As per the Bench, the material on record as well as the precedents reflected the fact that the interception carried out by the respondent was in accordance with the provisions Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and Rule 419-A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 2007, the Court noted. 

Thus, the instant writ petition was dismissed and it was held that MHA’s order was passed in light of the compelling reasons of public security protected under the clause of reasonable restrictions upon exercise of Fundamental Right.

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