The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today told the Supreme Court that “no case was made out” even after 14 probes into the taped conversations of public relations professional Niira Radia with politicians, industrialists and government officials, among others.
The CBI report was submitted in response to a petition by industrialist Ratan Tata, who wants a probe into how the phone conversations — originally intercepted by the government in 2008-09 upon suspicion of tax evasion — leaked at all. Protesting the violation of his privacy, he filed the petition in 2011. It was last heard in 2014 before being listed this year.
But NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which sees a bigger issue in Niira Radia’s lobbying business, has demanded that all the recordings be made public and be investigated.
When Mr Tata’s petition came up today, lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan of the CPIL was arguing another matter, so the case was passed over.
It was the Supreme Court that, in October 2013, directed the CBI to examine 14 issues that were identified by the agency after examining transcripts of the 5,800-plus conversations. That’s why the CBI registered 14 Preliminary Enquiries (PEs), but it today told the court that “no criminality has been found”.
Ratan Tata had, in 2012, asked the court for a copy of the report submitted by the government explaining how the tapes were leaked. The audio and transcripts were carried by the media in 2010.
He has argued that the release of the tapes amounted to infringement on his right to privacy.
In a verdict that may have a bearing on this one, the Supreme Court in August 2017 said privacy is a constitutional right. The verdict was also a major setback for the BJP government, which had argued that the Constitution does not guarantee individual privacy as an inalienable fundamental right.