ISLAMABAD: The Intelligence Bureau (IB) told the apex court on Friday that it was tapping 5,594 phone numbers across the country.
In compliance of the court’s March 18 order, Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti on Friday told the Supreme Court that a classified report had been submitted on the behalf of IB, detailing the number phones which were being tapped.
It is to be noted that a three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, while hearing the 19-year-old suo motu case on March 18 had directed Bhatti to furnish a concise statement within three weeks regarding the law, if any, under which taping of telephones was permitted.
“The names of departments/agencies (Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and police, etc) who are actually taping the telephones in the country,” says the order. “The number of telephones, which are actually being tapped by each department/agency.”
The bench clarified that at this stage, the number of phones being tapped was all that was required, and that details of telephone numbers and persons whose calls were being monitored were not required.
The deputy attorney general stated that spy agencies were tapping phone calls under Section 24 of the Telecommunication Act 1996; Section 5 of the Telegraph Act 1885 and Investigation for Fair Trail Act 2013.
The bench asked whether if all phone numbers tapped by following a particular procedure.
Justice Nisar made it clear that it was a matter of fundamental rights as at this stage they were asking for a number of telephones being monitored.
He said that if the proceedings of this case extend, the court may declare void those particular laws under which the telephone calls were being recorded, as they were in violation to Articles 8 and 14 of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, the bench also took exception over the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for not submitting a report in the matter.
The deputy attorney general said perhaps it was not possible for the ISI to disclose the total number of phones, which were being recorded. Bhatti added that the ISI tape phone numbers on emergency basis.
However, the court asked Bhatti to inform the agency to cooperate with the court and submit a written report in this regards, allowing it to only submit data for three months.
The hearing of the case was adjourned till June 3.
In 1996, then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah took notice of the recording of phone calls by the intelligence agencies after a spying device was found connected to his phone.
Later, former president (late) Farooq Ahmed Leghari’s counsel – during the Benazir Bhutto dismissal case proceedings –cited before the Supreme Court phone tapping of judges by the Benazir regime as a major justification for her government’s ouster.
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