The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted two more months to the Income Tax department to transcribe the entire intercepted telephone conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia.
A Bench of justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya said that the department must place the transcript of entire 5,800 conversations, running into more than hundred hours, on January 8.
"Complete the exercise in two months. Not possible to give you more time," the bench said after the Additional Solicitor General AS Chandhiok, appearing for the department, sought four months time.
In the meanwhile, the department informed the court that it has so far transcribed 52.7 hours of conversation and placed the transcript in a sealed envelope.
The Court, however, did not go through the transcript and said that it would do so after the department would place the entire transcript before it and granted two more months to the department to complete the task.
The conversations were recorded as part of surveillance of Radia's phone on a complaint to Finance Minister on November 16, 2007 alleging that within a span of nine years she had built up a business empire worth Rs 300 crore.
The government had recorded 180 days of Radia's conversations--first from August 20, 2008 onwards for 60 days and then from October 19 for another 60 days. Later on May 11, 2009. Her phone was again put on surveillance for another 60 days following a fresh order given on May 8.
The court was hearing a plea of Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata who had moved the apex court on November 29, 2010 for action against those involved in the leakage of the tapes saying it amounted to infringement of his fundamental right to life, which includes right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The bench, however, expanded the ambit of the his petition and sought response from the IT department on what action it took on the basis of intercepted conversations.
It directed the Directorate General of Income Tax (Investigation), who had ordered the tapping of phones of Radia, to constitute a team of officers to get the conversations transcribed.
The NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), has also sought a direction that all conversations should be made public except those which are purely personal in nature.
The NGO has said the conversation which show illegality or criminality should be thoroughly investigated.