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Government tightens phone-tapping norms

Special Correspondent

These come in the wake of complaints by Amar Singh

NEW DELHI: The Government has issued fresh guidelines, tightening phone-tapping norms in the wake of the allegations by Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh that private persons bugged his phone for months on the basis of forged police authorisation papers.

Phone service companies will have to appoint officers to acknowledge requests within two hours of intimation from security and law enforcement agencies for interception. On all intimations sent by the agencies, the service providers will make 24x7 arrangement. The names of nodal officers/alternative nodal officers, along with details of office and residential telephone numbers and addresses, should be communicated to all security agencies every quarter. Any change should be communicated as and when it takes place. "The names of the officers authorised by the security agencies to authenticate the form for intimation of [the] interception order to the service providers shall be provided by the security agencies."

The Government has asked the designated nodal officers of phone companies to meet representatives of security agencies every fortnight for discussing the list of interception or authorisation orders.

The companies have been told to provide interception facilities to the State police for a roaming subscriber, irrespective of his location. "Interception facility to the police for a non-roaming subscriber outside the territorial boundaries of the State shall be provided with the approval of the Union Home Secretary or the Home Secretary of the State concerned".

Asking the companies to keep phone-tapping authorisation a secret, the guidelines say that in case of emergency, they should seek confirmation within three days and the authorities should issue orders with the approval of the head or second seniormost officer of the agency, not below the rank of Inspector-General of Police.

The phone companies should install effective in-house checks to ensure that "unauthorised interception of communication does not take place and extreme secrecy and confidentiality of intimation of interception authorisation is maintained."

The guidelines were issued on Tuesday night, a week after senior Union Government officers discussed with phone company representatives the new norms and total compliance with the existing ones. That was the first meeting on the entire gamut of issues after a decade.

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