The government will soon give market regulator Sebi the powers to get telephone call data records (CDRs) of entities under its investigation in cases of insider trading, money laundering and other market manipulations.
SEBI will be given the powers to get CDRs, access to emails and SMSes through the amendments in the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, which is being worked out jointly by the Ministries of Home and Telecom.
The move to give SEBI the powers getting CDRs came following a request of the market regulator as well as the Ministry of Finance, official sources said today.
SEBI needs CDRs of entities under its investigation to establish links between two or more parties who might have had conversations among themselves before or after the incidents of insider trading, prevent black money coming to market or other manipulative activities in the market.
CDRs generally list out the number of conversations between two or more entities and are different from phone- tapping wherein an agency can snoop on or record the telephonic conversations of those suspected to be engaged in wrongdoings.
Regulators in the US and some other countries have often used tapped phone conversations to prove insider trading and other charges, including in the famous Rajat Gupta case.
Last month, SEBI chairman U.K. Sinha had earlier said that CDRs can be very useful to establish that two parties have been talking to each other and could be related entities.
"We are not asking for powers to snoop on the conversations between two entities or to do phone-tapping. We are only asking for CDR details of the persons that we are investigating and we want to know about the parties they (the entities under probe) have been interacting with," he said, adding it did not want tapping powers.
The phone-tapping powers are restricted to only to nine agencies in India, including CBI and the income tax department.
SEBI has used CDRs in some cases to prove charges against entities under its probe but currently it has to depend on other authorised agencies to get these records and it does not have direct powers to ask telecom firms or others for CDRs.
For about two years now, SEBI has been seeking direct powers to access call data records as it feels these informations being routed through other entities may delay the probe and consequently affect the investigation process.
Currently, police rely on a provision in the Criminal Procedure Code to requisition CDRs from telecom operators, central intelligence agencies like Intelligence Bureau, RAW and National Technical Research Organisation as there is provision under the Indian Telegraph Act to specifically ask permission from the Home Ministry for CDRs.
This has led to a rising number of phone tap requests.
Indian Telegraph Rules are silent on CDRs. So, when an intelligence agency actually requires only CDRs, it has no option but to ask for permission to tap the phone.
When the issue of illegally obtaining CDRs of BJP leader Arun Jaitley came to light, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had admitted the gaps in law on CDRs.
"While there is a law for intercepting telephones, there is no such thing for CDR. Jaitley's case was not the monitoring of telephone conversation (phone tapping) but accessing of CDR," Shinde had told Parliament.