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Phone Tapping Violates Article 21 Unless Permitted by Procedure Established by Law: Chhattisgarh High Court

The dismissal order shall be focused solely on telephone communication recorded, which, therefore, would amount, against the dictum established by the Supreme Court, to offending Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, a judicial judgment cannot isolate the reason for dispensation from the enquiry on the basis of a registered telephone discussion. This auspicious judgment was passed by The High Court of Chhattisgarh, in the Matter of Toman Lal Sahu S/O Panth Ram Sahu Vs State of Chhattisgarh [WPS No. 5287 of 2012] By Honorable Justice Justice Goutam Bhaduri.

The pleas of the petitioners who were dismissed from service without there being any departmental enquiry, merely on the basis of CD transcriptions of the conversation (with a criminal). Significantly, the orders of dismissal were passed in the back-drop of involvement of the petitioners with a hardcore criminal and the petitioners were in a telephonic conversation with him to extend some favour and the said conversation was converted in a CD.

The court stated thatsince the services were terminated on the basis of the telephonic/mobile conversations by invoking power under Article 311(2) Clause (b), as such, no departmental inquiry was held.” Further, when the said dismissal order was subject to departmental appeal, the same was also affirmed in the appeal. The challenge in the petitions before the Court, therefore, was to the dismissal orders passed by the respondent State Respondents. It was alleged by the petitioners that the source of CD was not disclosed and the alleged telephonic conversation, which was converted into CD, which recorded the conversation was also not supplied to the petitioners.

The court observed that the “orders didn’t disclose the fact as to how the voices of the petitioners were identified and it was clarified as to whether proper assistance of any officer was taken to identify the voice of the petitioners or the criminal in question. The Court also noted that the compact disk was not sent for examination to any expert or to any Forensic Science Laboratory and that the telephones or the mobiles in which the voice of conversation was recorded were not produced in original.”

Noting that Section 65-B of the Evidence Act lays down certain procedure to be followed about the admissibility of the electronic record, the Court remarked, “When a question comes to fore that whether any valid procedure or statutory mandate was followed to dispense with the departmental enquiry which proceeded on the premises of a telephonic recorded statement, the obvious answer would be in negative.”

By disposing of the petition, the respondents were given the liberty to hold the departmental inquiry against the petitioners by giving them the proper opportunity of hearing and following the procedure of rules of natural justice and thereafter may pass appropriate orders.

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