SC to hear Ratan Tata's plea in 'Radia tapes' controversy
The Supreme Court will be hearing a plea by business tycoon Ratan Tata on Thursday that seeks an investigation into the 2010 Niira Radia audio tapes leak. Tata says that the leak of his calls with Radia, a former corporate lobbyist, infringes upon his right to privacy. The petition will be heard after a gap of eight years. Here's all you need to know.
- In 2010, a popular Indian magazine published the transcripts of conversations between PR honcho Radia and politicians, industrialists, and senior journalists.
- The Information Technology (IT) department had tapped Radia's calls on the basis of a finance ministry complaint.
- Over 5,000 conversations were recorded between 2007-2009 and the leaks created a furore about the state of corporate lobbying in India.
The Tata Group chairman had filed the petition in 2010, and the last hearing was in 2014, as per Live Law. Transcripts of Radia's call with Tata were also published in the 2010 'expose'. The 79-year-old then took the government to court and demanded the protection of his right to privacy. The SC will be taking it up as a fresh hearing on Thursday.
A three-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Hima Kohli, and PS Narsimha will hear the matter. Notably, Radia's PR firm, Vaishnavi Corporate Communications, does not exist anymore. In the last hearing on April 29, 2014, the SC bench categorized the issues- right to privacy vis-a-vis the media, right to privacy vis-a-vis the government, and the right to information, the Times of India reported.
Within the eight-year gap, the SC, in 2016, ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right of every citizen, further notifying it as an intrinsic part of the right to life. In the last hearing, the bench had said that the illegality in awarding various contracts (as presented in the recordings) would only be taken up after privacy issues have been addressed.
In August 2012, Tata asked the SC for a copy of the government report which explain how the tapes were leaked, and for a foolproof mechanism against such acts of privacy invasion. At the time, the Centre said that it had destroyed all the recordings. Intriguingly, a counter-petition by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation seeks to make the tapes public, barring private conversations.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) searched premises linked to Radia's in connection with an Economic Offences Wing FIR, The Hindu reported. The case pertains to loans taken in developing a hospital in Gurugram. Radia, along with others, has been accused of criminal breach of trust, cheating, falsification of accounts, fraud, and embezzlement.