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Presidential awardee, former Customs officer among those illegally tapped
October, 23rd 2012

Documents with The Indian Express show that a web journalist and a presidential awardee were among the list of people illegally tapped by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in the early part of 2011. The Indian Express had reported on August 3 that the sister of then chairman of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) S D Majumdar had been put on surveillance by the DRI.

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 Majumdars 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 Mukherjees 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.

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