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6-member team for Radia tapes

New Delhi, Feb. 21: The Supreme Court today formed a six-member team of sleuths drawn from the CBI and the income tax department to scrutinise and segregate the Niira Radia tapes to “find out the element of criminality” in them.

Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhyaya directed the team to submit its report to the court within four months.

The team — five CBI officers and a tax official — will be supervised by two senior officers who would report to the SP, CBI, and a DIG-rank officer, the bench said.

The tax department had earlier submitted transcripts of over 5,800 taped phone conversations to the court after industrialist Ratan Tata sought a ban on public dissemination of the conversations in the media and on web portals on the ground that it infringed on the right to privacy.

The tapes relate to alleged conversations among politicians, business people, power brokers and some media persons. The recordings by tax authorities were part of a surveillance on Radia’s phone following a complaint to the finance ministry in November 2007 alleging that the corporate lobbyist had established a business empire worth Rs 300 crore in a decade with no apparent credible source of income.

The department had told the court that it had recorded conversations over a period from August 20, 2008, to May 8, 2009.

At an earlier hearing, the court said it had gone through some of the transcripts and observed “some of them are innocuous but others are not”.

“It needs to be scrutinised. It cannot be done by us as, even if we shuffle through, it would take hours. They need to be scrutinised to find out (the) element of criminality in them,” the court said.