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|SC lifts gag order on Amar's phone intercepts|
Rajya Sabha MP Amar Singh appeared to be headed for a major embarrassment on Wednesday after Supreme Court dismissed his petition seeking a ban on publication of the contents of tapes of his conversations with industrialists, politicians, bureaucrats and media personalities that were unauthorisedly intercepted in 2005.
"The writ petition is frivolous, speculative in character and weak in its foundation," a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said as they lifted the ban SC had imposed on disclosure of the contents of " Amar Singh tapes".
The court disapproved of Singh recanting his allegation that Congress was behind the illegal tapping of his phones. "In this case, very strange things have happened," Justices Singhvi and Ganguly said as they told Singh not to treat filing of writ petition in the court "as a game of chess".
"Litigants must come to court with clean hands," said Justice Ganguly, writing the 46-page stinging judgment. The bench also rebuked Reliance Infocom, the service provider which tapped the phones on the basis of a forged authorisation letter, for failing to verify the interception order.
The bench also addressed the growing concern about illegal phone interceptions and said, "The central government must, therefore, frame certain statutory guidelines in this regard to prevent interception of telephone conversations on unauthorised communication, as has been done in this case."
The court said Singh's going back on his allegation that Congress was behind the illegal tapping of his phones, his admission that his petition was on information given by accused Anurag Singh who is facing trial for forging the letter for interception, and his concealment of fact that that he was aware of the police probe into illegal tapping, knocked the bottom out of his case.
The bench said the petitioner had failed to discharge "the burden of the song in the writ petition" that Congress acted out of political vendetta and exercised its influence on Delhi Police to intercept the telephone lines of Opposition leaders including Singh's.
"When the matter came up for contested hearing, he suddenly withdraws his allegations against Congress party and feels satisfied with the investigation of the police in connection with the aforesaid case of forgery and also states that the same Anurag Singh edited and tampered certain conversations of the petitioner," the bench said.
"The court wants to make it clear that an action at law is not a game of chess. A litigant who comes to court and invokes its writ jurisdiction must come with clean hands. He cannot prevaricate and take inconsistent positions," the bench added.
Singh's tapped conversations dates to a period when he, as the closest confidant of Mulayam Singh Yadav, then the chief minister of UP and leader of a 39-strong SP group in Lok Sabha, was seen as powerful. As the head of the Uttar Pradesh Investment Council -- a body that comprised some of the top-notch corporates of India -- Singh had a formal role in facilitating investments in the country's largest state. The tapes cover the full spectrum of interests the SP discard is identified with -- from politics, movie stars, industrialists, bureaucrats and important media personalities.
On the tapes, he comes off as a man who could open the right doors in UP, play the peacemaker between feuding corporates as well as being Mulayam Singh's chief troubleshooter. In short, somebody who needed to be engaged and humoured.
The Rajya Sabha MP had sought continuation of the gag order on publication of his "tapped" conversations on the ground that the disclosure of illegal intercepts would breach his privacy.
Noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan opposed the argument that the conversations were a personal matter, arguing that the conversations brought out "wheeling-dealing" among people's representatives and corporate houses which the public was entitled to know.
On Tuesday, Bhushan, who has accused Singh of fabricating a CD to malign him and his father, former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan, welcomed the SC order, saying that it would, like Niira Radia tapes, give insight into the nexus between politicians and corporates.