Information regarding mobile - CIC: As per Indian Telegraph Rules, the Records pertaining to directions for interception and of intercepted messages shall be destroyed by the relevant competent authority and the authorized Agencies every six months
Information sought and background of the case:
The Appellant filed an RTI application dated08.12.2018 seeking information on the following 04 points regarding his mobile no. 88xxxxxx42:-
xxxxx (information regarding surveillance, tapping or interception)
The PIO/Director (CIS-II) vide letter dated 14.01.2019 replied as under:-
Dissatisfied with the response received from the CPIO, the Appellant filed a First Appeal dated 15.03.2019. The FAA/Jt. Secretary (CIS) vide letter dated 23.04.2019 upheld the reply of the CPIO. Aggrieved and dissatisfied, the Appellant approached the Commission with the instant Second Appeal
Facts emerging in Course of Hearing:
Written submissions dated 29.10.2021 have been received from the Respondent No. 2, stating that:
…information regarding surveillance, tapping or interception is not available with Respondent no. 2. However, the same may be available with Department of Telecommunications (DoT) or Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA – Respondent no. 1). Therefore, copy of the said application was transferred to DoT and Respondent no. 1, in terms of section 6(3)(ii) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, for furnishing information.
The Respondent has further placed reliance on a decision dated 02.08.2021 passed by a co ordinate Bench in a case titled “Neelesh Gajanan Marathe v. CPIO, DoT & Ors.” involving similar information regarding phone tapping, the Ld. CIC was pleased to dispose of the complaint with the observations that the CPIO, MHA (Respondent no. 1 herein) had provided a suitable explanation and that there was no scope of any intervention in the matter. Furthermore, the Respondent-TRAI has stated that
“As regards the reliance placed by the appellant on the order passed by the Ld. Single Judge of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the case of Shri Kabir Shankar Bose, it is submitted that Respondent no. 2[TRAI] has challenged the same before the Ld. Division Bench of the Hon’ble High Court, vide LPA no. 721 of 2018 titled as “TRAI v. Kabir Shankar Bose”. The Ld. Division Bench, vide order dated 09.08.2021, was pleased to grant a stay on the operation, implementation and execution of the order dated 20.11.2018 passed by the Ld. Single Judge in WP(C) No. 12388 of 2018, during the pendency of the LPA. Therefore, the reliance placed by the appellant on the said order dated 20.11.2018, passed by the Ld. Single Judge, is misplaced.”
In order to ensure social distancing and prevent the spread of the pandemic, COVID-19, hearing was scheduled through video conference after giving prior notice to both the parties. Respondent alone attended the hearing through video conference, while the Appellant remained absent and has not sent any communication about his absence before the Commission.
The Commission has taken cognizance of the decision dated 02.08.2021 passed by a coordinate Bench of this Commission in the case titled “Neelesh Gajanan Marathe v. CPIO, DoT &Ors.” and finds that same subject matter has been dealt with at length including the contention of the Respondent from MHA about destruction of all the records/correspondence related to interception as per the provisions contained in SubRule18 of Rule 419(A) of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951. Furthermore, the reliance placed by the Respondent No. 2, which is the custodian of information, on the stay order dated 09.08.2021 in LPA No.721/2018 in “TRAI v. Kabir Shankar Bose” is also taken into consideration.
In the light of the aforementioned facts of the case, it is noted that adequate information has been provided by the Respondents, in keeping with the spirit of the RTI Act. The provisions of the Sub-Rule 18 of the Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, relied upon by the Respondent-TRAI clearly states that records pertaining to such directions for interception and of intercepted messages shall be destroyed by the relevant competent authority and the authorized security and Law Enforcement Agencies every six months. Moreover, the subject matter has been adjudicated by a coordinate Bench vide the decision dated 02.082021, in the light of the stay granted by the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi vide order dated 09.08.2021 in another case on a similar subject matter.
Considering the given circumstances, the Commission finds no reason to intervene in this matter.
The appeal is disposed off accordingly.
Y. K. Sinha
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri Rahul Agarwal v. PIO, Ministry of Home Affairs and PIO, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in Second Appeal No. CIC/MHOME/A/2019/648007, Date of Decision : 02.11.2021