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Is it that easy to access and bug Pranab's office?

Last updated on: June 23, 2011 13:43 IST

Is it that easy to access and bug Pranab's office?

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Vicky Nanjappa

The bug reportedly found in Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's office continues to be a mystery.

The Intelligence Bureau dismissed the incident stating that there was no bug but a chewing gum in the finance minister's office. But then why would the Finance Minister even write a letter to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention if there was really nothing there?

Is it that simple to walk into a finance minister's office and bug it? Was it corporate espionage? Was it an insider job? Was it a result of the running feud between two ministries in the government?

It is a known fact that any agency that needs to bug a person or even tap his or her calls needs to get an approval from the home ministry. This again leads to another question -- Why was this matter not referred to the P Chidambaram's office first instead of the Prime Minister.

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Is it that easy to access and bug Pranab's office?

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Intelligence Bureau sources say that it is not easy to gain entry into the office of the finance minister and then bug. However, experts feel otherwise.

Experts say that placing a bug in an office is not a difficult task. The bugs, which are extremely small in size, are normally placed near laptops, telephones and even under a table. A double-sided tape can be used to fix these bugs to the location.

The capability of these bugs vary and depending on the capacity these bugs could be placed to listen into between 20 days to 10 years also.

As far as the case on hand, it appears that it was a shoddy job done at the end. Chewing gum is something that could not have stayed stuck for such a long time, as it does tend to fall off when it becomes dry. It appears that the person who placed these bugs took them out in a hurry leaving the adhesive behind, experts add.



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Is it that easy to access and bug Pranab's office?

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Bugging falls under the purview of the laws relating to tapping. The finance ministry has three wings under it -- the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Enforcement Directorate and the Central Board of Direct Taxes. All three agencies have the power to carry out arrests and if necessary place bugs or tap phones.

However, the law states that no agency can tap another person's conversations unless and until a certain procedure is followed.

In its People's Union for Civil Liberties vs Union of India verdict, the Supreme Court had ruled that a telephonic conversation in private without interference would come under the purview of the right to privacy as specified by the Indian Constitution.

Further, the court also held that the home secretary of India or the state government will have to issue an order authorising the phone-tap. However, the decision to tap a phone has to be reviewed by the cabinet, law and telecommunication secretary. Such an order needs to be reviewed in two months, failing which fresh orders need to be passed.

Also strong reasons have to be specified in order to issue such a directive.

Records related to phone tapping should be used and destroyed within two months. The order, which will be passed by the home secretary, shall be specific in nature. The invasion of privacy shall be minimum in nature and the reasons should be strong before an order is passed failing which such an order can be subject to a court review.


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