The proforma of a request for telephone surveillance sent to Union Home Secretary G K Pillai on January 27, 2011, sought approval regarding, among others, Shailender Singh, editor of Tax India Online, a news web portal; Barinder Singh, a presidential awardee for meritorious service who retired from the DRI; and Mrinal Kranti Das, a retired Customs officer. They were put on surveillance along with Majumdar’s sister.
Papers show that the request was about monitoring “an inter-state smuggling gang” based on information from sources which had, apparently, been corroborated by another “input” during interrogation. Their numbers were slipped in along with those of the suspected smugglers. In case of Shailendra Singh, his full name was not given. All the numbers were put on surveillance from the first week of February 2011 and the permission was taken for two months.
The illegal telephone tapping scandal first surfaced in June 2011 in the wake of alleged bugging of then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s office.
A top-secret DRI note dated June 23, 2011, coyly admitted to the illegal tapping of these numbers. However, the episode remains a closely guarded secret. Then CBEC chairman Majumdar wrote on the file, “It also transpired that some of my acquaintances in Delhi and Kolkata were under similar surveillance... electronic surveillance did occur in respect of my relation and acquaintance, during the period when Vijay Lakshmi Sharma was the DGRI.”
In April 2011, Sharma was elevated and became a CBEC member.
Najib Shah, the current DRI who took over charge in September, said: “I am not in a position to comment on this as I just joined.” Vijaya Lakshmi Sharma, who was the DGRI (director general of revenue intelligence) during the period in which illegal tapping took place, said that having retired two years earlier he could not comment without looking at the papers again. “And my department has not asked me for any comments.”
A critical component in the standard format submitted for request for electronic surveillance is the name and address of the “target” and the “citation”, which is the intelligence gathered by the DRI and justification for monitoring. This is further corroborated by physical verification by investigating officers.
In case of Shailendra Singh, his name was given as “S Singh” with an address in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj: ‘2nd Floor, Vasant Aracade, Nelson Mandela Road, New Delhi-70’. If indeed there was a verification, it would have revealed that the address housed the office of Tax India Online.
A more curious case was that of Barinder Singh, a former Customs superintendent, whose address was shown as “15/1, Strand Road, 2nd Floor, Calcutta”. Incidentally, the Customs Preventive Department is on the same floor in the building and according to documents with the service providers, Barinder Singh’s proof of address was that of the Customs Preventive Department.
Barinder Singh had enjoyed the reputation of being “a tough officer” against smugglers. However, the format seeking his surveillance said he was part of “a trans-border smuggling gang dealing in FICNs (fake Indian currency notes), narcotics and other contrabands”.
Similarly, Mrinal Kranti Das, was kept under surveillance after “intelligence developed by DZU (Delhi Zonal Unit of the DRI)” allegedly pointed towards his involvement in FICNs and other contrabands.
When contacted Shailendra Singh said, “If they can illegally tap their boss’s family members, what is there to be surprised? The fact is these incidents point to a lack of structural deficiencies in the system to curb misuse by officers.”
While Barinder Singh could not be immediately reached for comments, Das pleaded ignorance and said he was a leading a “quiet, retired life”.
Additional Director General of DZU R K Sharma, whose unit carried out the surveillance, continues to hold the post, despite then DGRI R S Sidhu sending a note to the CBEC on April 27, 2011, for his removal around the time when the irregularities were first detected. Sidhu was not available for comments. In October 2011, Majumdar also sought action against Sharma.
I am sorry to say that your correspondent, who has obtained the list of "illegal" phone-tapping & the editor, who put this news on front page are both wrong. Report iself mentions that "documents submitted for obtaining clearance for electronic surveillance" clearly pointing to "officially approved phone -tapping." Dear editor' Anyone familiar with "criminal world" knows that any person may get involved in "wrong-side of law" acts, for various reasons including extortion. Even a presidential awardee does not make him immune. Classic case was of personal secretary of Willi Brandt, West German Chancellor was a East German Spy. So do not allege misdoings to intelligence units, allow them to do their work quietly and secretly.Do not expect them to publish list of persons under surveillance. Do not allow your reporter to think that he knows better. Most importantly give secretly the name of the contact (who gave list and documents)to DRI, so that the person can be tracked.
Illegal acts are done by the so called intelligence officials of the so called premier intelligence units of the Most corrupt Govt. of India, with ulterior motives of extortion and terror. DRI and customs are the most corrupt and extortionist departments of Indian Govt. najib Shah was one such official, as also his wife. They create cases for extortion. Some of the topmost customs officials of Mumbai customs were involved in Mumbai Bomb Blasts direcly and hence were penalised for the same. If proper investigations are done most of them are anti-nationals.
Under Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance Ministry became a happy romping ground of all sorts of corporates,particularly those with reputation historically mired in controversy. Illegal wiretap is an awful thing that smacks of Orwell's "1984". But one should not forget that quite a few alleged illegalities were being committed from the Ministry itself during Mukiherjee's (now President Mukherjee)stewardship, including interfering with SEBI investigation of a delinquent corporate with strong political connections, not to speak of the other charge that a lady officer close to the minister had meddled in the selection process of SEBI chairman. This is in addition to the charge that she was pushing her IAS brother for the highly paid job of Chairman of the AMC of UTI mutual funds. These are matters that the Supreme Court found grave enough to serve notice on her even though she is now ensconced in--you guessed it right--the Rashtrapati Bhavan.