The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In certain high-risk states such as Jammu and Kashmir, search warrants are not required and the government from time to time bans the use of cellular telephones, long distance phones, and cyber cafes. India’s enforcement directorate, which investigates foreign exchange and currency violations, searches, interrogates and arrests business professionals, often without a warrant. A prominent expose of government corruption by the web portal, Tehelka, has sparked a growing debate on the appropriate balance between the press and personal privacy. Tehelka’s investigative journalists covertly filmed high level officials accepting bribes and army officers groping call girls as part of their expose on how official corruption operates in India. While some critics admit that the journalists did shed much needed light on a murky subject, they argue that there should be some restrictions on press behaviour.

India allows the use of illegally obtained evidence and therefore the evidence collected by the journalists can be used in court. Similar questions arose in relation to the transcripts of tapped phone calls released to the press in a match fixing scandal surrounding the national sport of cricket in April 2000.

The Indian Parliament is examining a draft communications convergence bill, which was supposed to pass in May 2002, but has been delayed...The bill aims to create a “super regulator”, the communications commission for India, to oversee voice and data (including telecom, broadcasting, and internet) communications.

Chapter XIV of the bill deals with the interception of communication and punishment for unlawful interception. Section 63 has been criticized by business groups for placing a significant burden on service providers to provide information on their customers to the government, and allowing the government to intercept any communication under a very low standard.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that access to government information was an essential part of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. A draft Freedom of Information Act was introduced into the Parliament in July 2000. The bill would provide a general right to access information and create a national council for freedom of information and state councils. It contains seven broad categories of exemptions. Campaigners who said that the bill provided only limited access to government records heavily criticized the draft.

The National Centre for Advocacy Studies said, “Many of the aspects towards information availability have been left completely in the hands of bureaucrats, which defeats the very purpose of the bill.” In 1997, the state of Tamil Nadu adopted the Act for Right to Information and the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan have administratively provided access to records. The state of Madhya Pradesh enacted a right to information bill in March 1998.

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