Centre asks for list of off-air interceptors

The Home Ministry has asked all the state governments to furnish a list of off-air interceptors to tap telephone conversations in an effort to put an end to instances of illegal phone tapping.

Home Minister P Chidambaram said there was no blanket ban on off-air interception of telephones done through mobile equipment that pick up signals in small area and "authorised intelligence agencies" would continue to intercept phone calls within the mandate of legal provisions in the interest of national security.

The Indian Express had reported that the Home Ministry had asked the Army to explain the purchase of 20 such intercepting devices from a defence PSU. These devices had not been declared by the Army in an earlier communication to the Home Ministry.

"We have asked all the state governments to declare all such intercepting devices being used in their region. Similarly, all central agencies have also been asked to disclose any such devices they are in possession of," Chidambaram said.

He said the number of such devices in the country was not very large. "We will come to know once we get the responses from all the state governments and central agencies. Only authorised intelligence agencies can use such equipment and they will continue to use them in national interest. There is no ban on the use of such equipment by such authorised intelligence agencies," he said.

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