New Delhi: The Delhi Police will have to make public contents of the taped, two-year-old phone conversations Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh had with government officials if such information is sought through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, top policymakers and a civil rights lawyer said on Tuesday.
The tapes of Singh’s conversations with some Bollywood stars, government officials and others, which were allegedly intercepted by some private detectives, had raised a political storm in early 2006 after excerpts were aired on television channels and reproduced in print.
In February 2006, the Supreme Court had stayed the publication or display by electronic and print media of “the unauthorizedly and illegally recorded telephone tapped versions of any person”. That was in response to a petition filed by Singh, who sought a judicial inquiry into the alleged tapping of his phone.
Talking point: Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh. Vijay Mathur / Reuters
On Tuesday, chief information commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah said any taped conversation Singh may have had with any government employee would fall under the purview of the RTI Act.
“Any conversation between an individual and government employees is in the public domain and, therefore, should rightfully be made available to any RTI applicant who wants to know about those conversations,” Habibullah said on the sidelines of an annual seminar on the RTI Act. But any personal conversation could be kept out of the purview of the RTI, he added.
The matter came up after civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan, during his talk at the conference on the RTI Act’s impact on an individual’s right to privacy, said the tapes can be sought under the legislation. “Any conversation that he (Singh) may have had with government officers can be disclosed,” Bhushan said. However, the applicants would have to address the RTI application to the Delhi Police, which had investigated the matter, he added.
Singh wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi agreed with Bhushan and said that “any information held by the government could be sought by RTI applicants”. “Of course, the respondents can choose to make objections on grounds of privacy or that the matter is under investigation,” he added.