Who authorises phone tapping and what happens in case of emergency?

Who authorises phone tapping?

Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, 2007, says phone tapping orders “shall not be issued except by an order made by the Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Home Affairs in the case of Government of India and by the Secretary to the State Government in-charge of the Home Department in the case of a State Government”.

The order has to be conveyed to the service provider in writing; only then can the tapping begin.

What happens in an emergency?

In unavoidable circumstances, such an order may be issued by an officer, not below the rank of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India, who has been authorised by the Union Home Secretary, or the State Home Secretary.

In remote areas or for operational reasons, if it is not feasible to get prior directions, a call can be intercepted with the prior approval of the head or the second senior-most officer of the authorised law enforcement agency at the central level, and by authorised officers, not below the rank of Inspector General of Police, at the state level.

The order has to be communicated within three days to the competent authority, who has to approve or disapprove it within seven working days. If the confirmation from the competent authority is not received within the stipulated seven days, such interception shall cease.

Many times, in grave situations such as terror attacks, service providers are approached with even verbal requests, which they honour in the interest of the nation’s security,” as per an Intelligence official.

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