CBI was aware of Radia’s role in 2009; govt can’t curb leaked tapes

CBI was aware of Radia’s role in 2009; govt can’t curb leaked tapes

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) knew of Niira Radia’s involvement in an alleged conspiracy as early as 16 November 2009 and was investigating the irregularities, the income-tax (I-T) department told the Supreme Court on Friday.

The department, which tapped Radia’s phones in 2008 and 2009, filed a nine-page affidavit in response to Ratan Tata’s privacy petition, scheduled for hearing on Monday. Tata moved court after around 140 such conversations were leaked in the public domain.

Radia’s phone lines were tapped after a complaint was filed with the finance minister alleging that she had amassed Rs300 crore in nine years, and was “indulging in anti-national activities" and acting as an “agent of foreign intelligence agencies", the affidavit said.

On 16 November 2009, CBI wrote to the I-T department asking for information on Radia’s involvement in the award of telecom licences.

The affidavit also confirmed the authenticity of the so-called Radia tapes as the I-T department said it had taken the requisite steps to maintain the “integrity and safety of the data in electronic form".

Radia’s phone lines were tapped for 120 days in 2008 and 60 days in 2009 by the directorate general of income tax. This resulted in recordings of 5,851 calls to prominent politicians, businessmen and journalists.

The leaked tapes suggest Radia, who represented Tata and Mukesh Ambani through her companies, tried to influence four major issues—cabinet formation in the second United Progressive Alliance government, an apex court judgement on the spat between Mukesh and Anil Ambani over natural gas, the allocation of radio spectrum to Tata’s telecom companies, and for the chief executive’s position of Air India for Sunil Arora.

It is “not possible or practical for the government to take steps to retrieve the various copies of some transcripts which have appeared" in the print and electronic media or on the Internet, the affidavit said.

The information and broadcasting ministry, which was also named as a respondent in Tata’s privacy petition, did not respond in this affidavit.