New Delhi, Aug. 27: The Supreme Court will hold “in-camera” proceedings on Thursday on certain aspects of the Niira Radia tapes in possibly the first closed hearing since the Jain Hawala case of the early 1990s.
A bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and Y. Gopala Gowda today agreed to hear the matter in front of a select gathering of advocates representing various parties to the dispute after Ratan Tata’s lawyer, Harish Salve, sought such a measure.
This came after the Centre’s counsel, L. Nageshwar Rao, cited certain constraints in making submissions in an open court because of the “extremely serious nature of the matter”.
“On Thursday morning, we will hear you alone and you also ensure that all these will not come out in open,” the bench said after agreeing with Salve that the hearing had to be behind closed doors.
Tata has said the tapes, which feature conversations of former corporate lobbyist Radia with influential people, should not be made public by the media.
During the hearing, the court is expected to scan some of the transcripts mainly to determine whether they were in the nature of private conversations or were public in content that would be otherwise liable for criminal prosecution.
However, the restriction is expected to be eased after one or two hearings.
The conversations were recorded by tax authorities as part of surveillance of Radia’s phone for a few months in 2008 and 2009 following a complaint to the Centre about her sources of income.
Last week, the bench had directed the Centre to place before it minutes of the purported 2008 meeting, chaired by the then home secretary, where it was decided to intercept Radia’s phones conversations.
In February this year, the apex court had constituted a six-member team of CBI and income-tax sleuths to scrutinise the voluminous tapes to find out if there was any “element of criminality” in them.
In his petition, Tata has sought to restrain the media from telecasting/publishing those conversations that are private discussions between individuals and not connected to the main allegations of purported illegalities.