Supreme Court Guidelines

Telephone tapping

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) v. Union of India,
(1997) 1 SCC 301: AIR 1997 SC 568


1. An order for telephone-tapping in terms of section 5(2) of the Act shall not be issued except by the Home Secretary of India (Central Government) and Home Secretaries of the State Government. In an urgent case the power may be delegated to an officer of the Home Department of the Government of India and the State Government not below the rank of Joint Secretary. Copy of the order shall be sent to the Review Committee concerned within one week of the passing of the order.

2. The order shall require the person to whom it is addressed to intercept in the course of their transmission by means (of) a public telecommunication system, such communications as are described in the order. The order may also require the person to whom it is addressed to disclose the intercepted material to such person and in such manner as are described in the order.

3. The matters to be taken into account in considering whether an order is necessary under section 5(2) of the Act shall include whether the information which is considered necessary to acquire could reasonably be acquired by other means.

4. The interception required under section 5(2) of the Act shall be the interception of such communications as are sent to or from one or more addresses, specified in the order, being an address or addresses likely to be used for the transmission of communications to or from, from one particular person specified or described in the order or one particular set of premises specified or described in the order.

5. The order under section 5(2) of the Act shall, unless renewed, cease to have effect at the end of the period of two months from the date of issue. The authority which issued the order may, at any time before the end of two months’ period renew the order if it considers that it is necessary to continue the order in terms of section 5(2) of the Act. The total period for the operation of the order shall not exceed six months.

6. The authority which issued the order shall maintain the following records:
(a) the intercepted communications,
(b) the extent to which the material is disclosed,
(c) the number of persons and their identity to whom any of the material is disclosed,
(d) the extent to which the material is copied, and
(e) the number of copies made of any of the material

7. The use of the intercepted material shall be limited to the minimum that is necessary in terms of section 5(2) of the Act.

8. Each copy made of any of the intercepted material shall be destroyed as soon as its retention is no longer necessary in terms of section 5(2) of the Act.

9. There shall be a review Committee consisting of Cabinet Secretary, the Law Secretary and the Secretary, Telecommunication at the level of the Central Government. The Review Committee at the State level shall consist of Chief Secretary, Law Secretary and another member, other than the Home Secretary, appointed by the State Government.
(a) The Committee shall on its own, within two months of the passing of the order by the authority concerned, investigate whether there is or has been a relevant order under section 5(2) of the Act. Where there is or has been an order whether there has been any contravention of the provisions of section 5(2) of the Act.
(b) If on an investigation the Committee concludes that there has been a contravention of the provisions of section 5(2) of the Act, it shall set aside the order under scrutiny of the Committee. It shall further direct the destruction of the copies of the intercepted material.
(c) If on investigation, the Committee comes to the conclusion that there has been no contravention of the provision of section 5(2) of the Act, it shall record the finding to that effect.
Source: M A Rashid, Supreme Court Guidelines and Precedents

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