The Income Tax department today said it continues to enjoy the power to tap telephone conversations, as was given to it earlier in 2006. “Power of interception stays with the CBDT and there is no change in the factual background when the power was given in 2006, and at present circumstances are identical,” Sudhir Chandra, the outgoing chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) told reporters here.

Referring to the issue of standard procedures on phone tapping raised by the Home Ministry, Chandra said, “those standard procedures already exist.”

Earlier a Committee of Secretaries, constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the wake of leakage of telephone tapes of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, had suggested that CBDT should be removed from the list of agencies that can intercept phone calls.

The Committee has argued that tax evasion cases neither have criminal liability nor they involve national security issue as these are only civil matters.In the corporate lobbyist Radia’s case, the income tax department was allowed to tap her phone on the basis of a November 2007 letter, received by the Finance Ministry.

The government had last month constituted a 15-member inter-ministerial group, headed by Home Secretary, to recommend effective monitoring of provisions of telephone tapping and curtailing its leakage to the public at large.

PTI

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