MPs' panel calls up for phone records of officer, DoT hangs up

TelecomDoT declined request from panel for call records of bureaucrat. (Reuters)

The Department of Telecom has declined a request from a parliamentary panel for call records of a bureaucrat against whom an MP had complained of disrespect and said that an individual's privacy is paramount.

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The Committee on Violation of Protocol Norms and Contemptuous Behaviour of Government Officers had in April sought "collection and submission of telephone and mobile records" of K K Pathak, a joint secretary in the home ministry.

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But the DoT recently refused, saying that Section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, read with Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, authorised only the home secretary as the "competent authority" to issue such an interception order.

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Moreover, it said the DoT instruction on call detail records was explicit that such interception or collation could only be initiated when the information was to be provided to "authorised security and law enforcement agencies".

These instructions were framed "keeping privacy issue in view", the DoT's security wing wrote.

The panel, headed by Girija Vyas, wanted to examine Pathak's telephone records to check if he had called BJP MP Bishnu Pada Ray to apologise after an alleged altercation in his office in May 2012.

The MP from Andaman had raised the issue in the Lok Sabha then, alleging Pathak had pushed him out of his office when the MP inquired about a tsunami-related proposal. The officer claimed he had telephoned Ray since and they were in touch after the incident.

The panel wanted to scrutinise the call records to see if Pathak had indeed called the MP after the controversial meeting or whether he apologised after Ray raised the matter in the Lok Sabha.

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