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Recording phone conversation without knowledge is in breach of right to privacy: Chattisgarh High Court

Title: Aasha Lata Soni v. Durgesh Soni

Citation: CRMP No. 2112 of 2022

Decided on: 05.10.2023

Coram: Justice Rakesh Mohan Pandey

Introduction

The Chattisgarh High Court while allowing the present petition held that recording a telephonic conversation without the knowledge and behind a person’s back amounts to breach of right to privacy as envisaged under article 21 of the Constitution of India, wherein the right to privacy is an essential component of right to life.

Facts of the case

The petitioner (wife) has challenged the order passed by the Family Court, Mahasamund, Chattisgarh, wherein the respondent’s (husband) application under Section 311 of the CrPC to summon the witness for further cross-examination was allowed. The petitioner has made an application for maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC which has been pending before the Family Court since 2019. However, the respondent moved an application under Section 311 of the CrPC, in order to cross-examine the petitioner with regards to a recorded telephonic conversation. This application by respondent was allowed by the trial court. Aggrieved, the petitioner approached this court.

Court’s observation and analysis

The Court in order to arrive at a decision made reference to the Supreme Court case of R. M. Malkani v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1973 SC 157, wherein it was held that a telephone recording which has been obtained unlawfully and irregularly is in breach of right to privacy as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution which contemplates procedure established by law with regard to deprivation of life or personal liberty. Reference was also made to the case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India (1997) 1 SCC 301, wherein it was held that the right to hold a telephone conversation in the privacy of ones home or office without interference can certainly be claimed as “right to privacy”. Conversations on the telephone are often of an intimate and confidential character. Hence, telephone tapping would result in the breach of Article 21 of the Constitution, unless it is done according to the procedure established by law.

Similar issue was also dealt by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of Anurima alias Abha Mehta v. Sunil Mehta, AIR 2016 Madhya Pradesh 112, wherein it was held that recording conversation without the knowledge of the wife and behind her back would amount to infringement of her right to privacy and will be in breach of Article 11 and 21 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, such recorded conversation cannot be admitted as evidence.

Taking into consideration the above judgements, the Chattisgarh High Court in the present matter, decided that the recorded telephonic conversation of the petitioner without her permission and behind her back would amount to infringement of her right to privacy as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, wherein the right to privacy is an essential component of right to life. The court, therefore, set aside the order passed by the Family Court wherein it allowed the respondent’s application under Section 311 of the CrPC. Accordingly the present petition was allowed.

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Written by- Amrita Rout

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