Can't tap babus' phones without our permission: Maharashtra govt tells ACB

The state government has turned down the state Anti-Corruption Bureau’s demand to be allowed to tap phones of corrupt officials without having to take prior approval from the competent authority the additional chief secretary (home)

Once again, it is the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) versus the state government on the issue of tackling rising corruption in public departments. Following a spike in corruption cases in government offices, the state ACB had demanded powers to tap telephones of officials suspected of graft. However, the state government has rejected this demand.

A home department official said no other state has entrusted the ACB with the power to tap phones and listen in on conversations. Hence,  the bureau’s request was rejected. Pic for representation/Thinkstock
A home department official said no other state has entrusted the ACB with the power to tap phones and listen in on conversations. Hence,  the bureau’s request was rejected. Pic for representation/Thinkstock

The ACB had sent the proposal a month ago, requesting the power to tap landlines and mobile phones of babus suspected to be corrupt, under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, without having to take the prior approval of a competent authority in this case, the additional chief secretary (home).

mid-day’s report on February 19
mid-day’s report on February 19

This week the state home department, led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, turned down the ACB’s request. Both the central and state government, however, reserve the right to tap phones under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act.

“We have checked in over five to six major states and nowhere is the ACB entrusted with the power to tap phones without taking prior sanction from the home department. Their (ACB) proposal has, thus, been struck down,” said a senior home department official.

Back in 2010, the BJP had fought hard against the alleged misuse of phone-tapping powers by the Congress-NCP government, and had claimed that tapping phones of political adversaries is a violation of the rights and freedoms granted under the Constitution.

mid-day had reported on February 19 that the state government was sitting on requests by the ACB to prosecute 381 corrupt officials in the government. The state government’s move raises many eyebrows especially with the BJP government claiming that de-centralisation of power is a big part of its growth agenda.

‘Will need to check’
When asked about the issue, Praveen Dixit, state ACB chief, said he was not aware of the government’s decision and would have to check the files before making any comments. “I will have to check first with the government and can only comment after that. I wouldn’t like to comment on the matter on the phone,” he told mid-day.

Official speak
“We have received this proposal from the Anti-Corruption Bureau, but the law and judiciary department have given us a different opinion on this. They have said it is not provided for, in the law, to give this power (of tapping phones) to any other agency. They have also cited a Supreme Court ruling to back this point,” said K P Bakshi, additional chief secretary (home).

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