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Radia Was Taped Because Of Her Rapid Rise to Rs 300 Cr Empire, Govt Tells SC

PTI 11 Dec 2010, 11:59:13 IST
New Delhi A complaint to the finance minister about corporate lobbyist Niira Radia's meteoric rise in nine years to head a “business empire worth Rs 300 crores” triggered the surveillance of her phone, the Income-Tax Department told the Supreme Court, reports Indian Express.

“A complaint was received by the finance minister dated November 16, 2007 alleging that Ms Radia had within a short span of 9 years built up a business empire worth Rs 300 crores,” an affidavit filed by Additional Director of Income-Tax (Investigation) Sushil Kumar said.

The complaint also alleged that “she (Radia) was an agent of foreign intelligence agencies and that she was indulging in anti-national activities,” Kumar said. “

On this complaint, it was directed that the matter should be examined,” the affidavit said.The I-T affidavit, common to and on behalf of the Ministries of Home and Finance, was filed in response to a petition by industrialist Ratan Tata who contended that there had been “complete failure” on the part of authorities to protect the privacy of persons featuring in the Radia tapes — which were being used to probe details of the 2G spectrum allocation scandal — leading to the leak of call intercepts and their unauthorised publication.

It was Kumar's office, Director General of Income-Tax (Investigation), Delhi, which initiated the surveillance on Radia and her associates. The call records were later “shared” with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The sharing of information, Kumar said, was part of guidelines followed by law enforcement agencies when one of them has information on matters “relating to national security” or crimes like terrorism, money-laundering, corruption or tax evasion.He said his office wrote to the IB on November 16, 2009, saying that an analysis of Radia's tapes had uncovered “some” conversations which were “quite sensitive”.

To Tata's plea that some steps should be taken by authorities to retrieve or recover the leaked tapes, the affidavit replied, “It is not possible or practical for the government to take steps to retrieve the various copies of some of the transcripts which have appeared in the print media or in the electronic media and are being circulated on the Internet.”The Department said it was not responsible for the leaks, but an inquiry was on anyway.

“Never in the past had any electronic intercepts made by the Income-Tax Department appeared in the media. Nevertheless, an inquiry into this matter is in progress and, on the basis of the material which is available, there is no reason to believe that the telephone intercepts have been leaked from the Income-Tax Department,” stated the affidavit dated December 9, 2010.

Maintaining that “normal safeguards and procedures” for surveillance were followed during the Radia operation, the affidavit said it had no powers over telephone service providers, in case they were behind the media leak. “...Ministry of Telecommunications or any other competent authority will have to take further action.”

Countering Tata's contention that the government used its extraordinary powers to tap a private citizen's calls, but failed to protect his right to privacy, the affidavit said “secrecy and security” were indeed maintained. “Integrity and safety of the data in electronic form have been ensured through proper checks in the systems through which the recordings have taken place.”

In a statement, Radia's company, Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, said, “...Corporate vested interests... circulated an inadmissible and forged letter with malicious, baseless and derogatory content in November 2007. We had... then denied the same. ...Neither we nor our promoter have ever indulged in any anti-national activities.”