In major embarrassment to Telangana government, three telecom operators informed the Supreme Court that they had tapped certain numbers from Andhra Pradesh in May-June 2015 as per the instruction from TS.
The tapping was done by Airtel, Idea and Reliance companies.
These companies admitted to this before the Apex Court, in a petition filed by Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), the representative body of cellular operators.
Supreme Court, in turn, directed these companies to part with information in a sealed cover within a week and give this to trial court in Vijayawada. The direction is a victory of sorts to Andhra Pradesh, which wants to use the charge of Telephone tapping by Telangana government to neutralize the T State’s threat to implicate chief minister Chandrababu Naidu in cash-for-vote scam.
This is expected to intensify the war of words between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
In the meantime, union home minister Rajanath Singh reportedly dashed off a letter to the states in conflict asking them to keep the centre posted with the problems arising between them such as telephone tapping.
Because the implementation of the AP Reorganization Act-2014 is the responsibility of union ministry of home affairs (MoHA). The MoHA took the extraordinary step of writing to warring states as the telephone tapping and seeking the information thus tapped involves the issues of national security.
The petitioner, COAI said, “During the period from May 2015 to June 2015, the law enforcement agencies of the state of Telangana directed petitioners (Airtel, Idea and Reliance) to carry out lawful interception of certain phone numbers under Section 5 of the Indian Telegraph Act. The petitioners, who were bound under law, accordingly complied with the said orders. But they do not have access to the content of the said lawful interception. However, the said lawful interception has resulted in political storm in both the states.”
A probe by Andhra Pradesh into cash-for-vote scam in which T-TDP MLA Revanth Reddy was caught red-handed while giving money to nominated MLA Stephenson in connection with MLC elections, revealed that certain phones of Andhra Pradesh government functionaries had been tapped. State then set up special investigative team (SIT) to investigate into the telephone tapping by TS which found that certain phones had been tapped.
Then, AP took legal recourse to get the call data from the Telecom operators. The Telangana government, however, had warned that disclosure of call data would be considered a violation of Official Secrets Act, 1923 and Indian Telegraph Act, 1995, by the operators. Telangana argues that telecom service providers are not supposed to entertain requests by anybody to furnish data, which is confidential in nature, and pertaining to lawful interceptions of telephone communication undertaken by law enforcement agencies falling within the jurisdiction of Telangana to police officers and individuals of other state who have no jurisdiction over the territory of Telangana state.
Informing the Apex court how they had been pressurized, with a request form AP for data, and a warning from Telangana against the three service provides sought the advice of the Union home ministry and Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
The DoT on the other hand on June 30, 2015 the DoT said, “the matter has been referred to the Government of India for legal examination as it related to lawful interception and monitoring that has bearing on national security.“
But with a court in Vijayawada directing the three companies to part with the information in a sealed cover by July 24, they moved the Supreme Court on Thursday.
The Supreme Court upon hearing the prayer of the three service providers directed them to furnish information sought by AP to the magistrate concerned in a sealed cover and directed the trial court to preserve it for a month so that petitioners could move Hyderabad High Court.