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Delhi HC stays single judge order refusing to interfere with CIC order on TRAI plea

The Delhi High Court has stayed the operation of the order passed by the Single-Judge bench wherein the Court refused to interfere with the order passed by the Central Information Commission (CIC) directing the regulatory body to furnish information related to the alleged tapping of a lawyer’s phone.

Earlier this week, the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was hearing an appeal preferred by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) against the decision passed by Justice Suresh Kumar Kait on November 20, 2018.

Advocate Maneesha Dhir, representing TRAI, informed the Court that phone-tapping is done by an authorised officer under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act; and that TRAI is not in a position to furnish any information on the aspect.
Advocate Kanika Singhal, representing the lawyer who sought information under the Right to Information Act on his alleged phone-tapping, submitted that the privacy of the lawyer is being infringed by keeping his phone on surveillance, and urged for the dismissal of the appeal.

The Bench underscored: “There is a prima facie case in favour of the appellant. Balance of convenience is also in favour of the appellant; and if the stay as prayed for is not granted, it will cause an irreparable loss to the appellant.”

The matter is listed for final hearing on December 13, 2021.

At the outset, Kabir Shankar Bose, a practising advocate, filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005, on July 5, 2017, seeking information as to whether his mobile number has been placed under surveillance or tracking or tapping by any agency; if so, under whose direction and by which agency.

The Central Public Information Officer, on July 6, 2017, replied that the information sought for is not available with TRAI. However, the same may be available with the service provider, but the RTI Act does not require the public authority to collect information from the service provider. On September 12, 2018, the CIC directed TRAI to collect the information from the service provider and furnish it to Bose.

Being aggrieved, a petition was filed by TRAI for setting aside the order passed by CIC. The case of TRAI was that the information sought by Bose was not a part of record of TRAI and thereby, it cannot be obligated to supply the said information. Justice Kait, while observing that TRAI, being the regulatory authority, has the power to call for the said information from the the service provider, dismissed the petition. India Legal Live

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