With cases of phone snooping surfacing during past few years, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said privacy of people is in “danger” and separate law may be required to check intrusion of individual’s personal space. “Privacy is very much in danger. As I said, there are always elements in society that violate law be it privacy or a criminal act,” Sibal told PTI here. Also Read - Vodafone CEO Nick Read to visit India this week; will seek bailout: Report
Recently there had been controversy around charges of spying on a woman in 2009 allegedly at the behest of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Before this, phone tapping incidents of politicians like BJP leader Arun Jaitley and Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Amar Singh erstwhile member of Samajwadi Party, also came to the fore. Sibal declined to reply on questions related to ‘snoopgate’ as “the matter is sub-judice”. The telecom minister said with development in communication technologies, the space for privacy is getting reduced. “In that process if an individual cannot feel confident and safe that there are certain aspects of his life which are very personal, then I think there is danger to democracy,” Sibal said.
UPA government had started working on a Right to Privacy bill but it is yet to be firmed up. The Department of Telecom, according to sources, had proposed that to increase financial penalty from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 crore for illegal phone tapping. Sibal said that governments can only take punitive action against those who violate the law. “There will always be people who violate law. That is true of any criminal offence. The intrusion in a person’s private life I think is a very serious issue and we in civil society, courts of law and political establishment must take it very seriously,” he said. The minister said that there is need to find technology solutions to prevent snooping. Also Read - BSNL agrees to lay off 54,000 employees, but waiting for elections to be over: Report
When asked about regulatory or legislative elements that he would prefer to be put in place, Sibal said “This is very complex issue and it requires lot of thought and requires technology solutions. I am not a technologist. But I think there should be separate law to deal with issues of violation of privacy.” The minister said that if required, the act of breaching privacy should be made a criminal offence. “These are the issues which I cannot talk about at this stage. This requires lot of debate and also consensus,” Sibal said. Also Read - WhatsApp users can now file a complaint with DoT against offensive messages