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India: Amendment to Regulate Phone Taps to Be Introduced

(May 17, 2010) India's government has announced it will introduce amendments to the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, to regulate and broaden permissible use of passive (off-the-air interception) of phone conversations. (The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Government of India Department of Telecommunications website, (last visited May 14, 2010).) The purpose of the revision of the law is to give legal sanction to passive phone tapping done by the government but to penalize such actions when done by private citizens. Currently the only circumstance in which phone taps are allowed is when security officials believe a phone is being used for criminal activities or in actions affecting national security. In addition, the amendment would establish a panel to oversee government tapping, under the Prime Minister's Office. (Indian Government to Amend Law to Regulate Passive Tapping of Phone Conversations, THE TELEGRAPH ONLINE, May 14, 2010, World News Connection online subscription database, Document No. 201005141477.1_9c3f00344fb1c25e.)

Phone tapping issues are at the heart of a scandal involving allegations that there were interceptions of conversations of political leaders done by the National Technical Research Organisation, a government body under the control of the Prime Minister's office. (Id.) The government has denied inappropriate tapping took place. (Govt Denies Phone Tap, PM Says No Joint Parliamentary Committee, NDTV, Apr. 26, 2010, available at