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'No privacy left for anybody': SC takes serious note of C'garh govt tapping IPS officer's phone

twitter-logoPTI | November 4, 2019 | Updated 20:01 IST

New Delhi, Nov 4 (PTI) The Supreme Court on Monday expressed serious concern over the Chhattisgarh government tapping the phone of a senior IPS officer -- and allegedly also of his two daughters -- and wondered if "somebody's privacy can be violated like this". "No privacy is left for anybody. What is happening in this country?" the top court observed. It asked the state government as to who ordered for interception of the phones of the senior police officer Mukesh Gupta and his family members and directed it to file a detailed affidavit explaining the reason for the action. During the previous hearing in the case on October 25, Gupta had alleged that his and his two young daughters' phones were being intercepted. The state government had admitted that his phone was being tapped as he has been evading arrest in two cases lodged against him. The government had denied intercepting the officer's daughters' phone though. The court had then restrained the state government from intercepting the phones of Gupta and his family and granted him protection from arrest in the cases lodged against him. But it had refused to quash the FIRs lodged against the 1988 batch IPS officer including one for alleged FCRA violation by a trust running a eye hospital, founded by his father. During the hearing on Monday, a bench of justices Arun Mishra and Indira Banerjee asked the Chhattisgarh government if an individual's phone can be intercepted just to trace him. "Everyday something is happening. What is the need of this? No privacy is left for anybody. What is happening in this country," the bench said, adding, "Can privacy of somebody be violated like this? Who ordered this? File a detailed affidavit". The top court also took exception to a separate FIR lodged against an advocate who is representing the IPS officer before the apex court. Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for Gupta, informed the bench that the Chhattisgarh police had come to arrest his client and his lawyer Ravi Sharma called up the police to know under which FIR he was being arrested. The bench said that the lawyer, as an officer of the court, has every right to know from the police that under which FIR or provisions of law, his client was being arrested. It stayed any further investigation against the lawyer and said that no coercive action be taken against him till further orders. The bench also told Jethmalani, and senior advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul who is appearing for the Chhattisgarh government, not to politicise the issue by dragging the name of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel in the matter. Senior advocate Vivek Tankha and Chhattisgarh standing counsel Sumeer Sodhi alongwith advocate general S C Verma told the bench that the chief minister has nothing to do with the case and his name should be struck off from the list of parties. The top court said that politicising the case would not help anybody and directed that the CM's name be removed from the memo of parties in the petition. In the petition, the IPS officer has named the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister as one of the respondents. Kaul said that Gupta had manipulated the death of his second wife which tells much about his conduct. Jethmalani objected to Kaul's submission and said the death happened in 2001 and his client has been exonerated three times in the case. "Maybe his (Gupta) conduct is very bad but that does not give any right to anybody to tap his phones," the bench said. "You have exceeded everything. This is not good. This is shocking. Person's right to privacy cannot be breached in this fashion," the bench said and ordered that the stay on further investigation in the two FIRs lodged against Gupta to continue till further orders. Gupta is himself accused of unlawful phone tapping in violation the provisions of Indian Telegraph Act during the investigation of state civil supplies scam unearthed in 2015. On February 9, two IPS officers from Chhattisgarh, including Special DGP Mukesh Gupta, were suspended after the Economic Offences Wing of the police registered an FIR against them for alleged criminal conspiracy and illegal phone tapping during the Civil Supplies Corporation scam probe in 2015. The other officer who was suspended was then Narayanpur Superintendent of Police Rajnesh Singh. The case was lodged on the basis of the investigation carried by a Special Investigation Team (SIT), constituted by the Bhupesh Baghel led Congress government, to probe the alleged multi-crore civil supply scam unearthed during the previous BJP government. Gupta and Singh were booked under sections 193 (false evidence), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender), 466 (forgery), 471 (Using as genuine a forged), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and other relevant sections of IPC and under provisions of Indian Telegraph Act. However, Gupta had denied all charges and said that all actions in the investigation of scam were taken in accordance with law and with due permissions from competent authority. The alleged scam was exposed in February 2015 when the ACB and the EOW conducted simultaneous raids at 25 premises of the Civil Supplies Corporation. PTI MNL ABA MNL TIR TIR

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