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CBDT retains right to snoop on tax evaders
June, 01st 2011

Dircaption:- The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the controlling authority of Income Tax department, will continue to have the right to tap phones of tax evaders on specific information, outgoing CBDT chairman Sudhir Chandra said on Tuesday.

"The power of interception stays with CBDT as there is no change in circumstances then and now," said Chandra, whose term ended on Tuesday. He added that it was vital for the revenue department to have this power as all crimes were linked with financial transactions.

CBDT was given the power to tap phones during the tenure of P Chidambaram as finance minister in 2005-06. After some of its phone taps linked to corporate lobbyist Niira Radia were leaked to the media, the government this year decided to review tapping powers to agencies.

The matter was discussed by a committee of secretaries whether tapping powers should be withdrawn from CBDT. It was later left to the home ministry and the finance ministry to take a call on the issue.

Earlier, a Cabinet note was circulated to different ministries to seek approval for setting up of a dedicated centre for phone monitoring. The note moved before the Cabinet Committee on Security had observed that the present arrangement was not "secure and safe" and "secrecy can easily be compromised due to manual intervention at many stages, rendering the whole process useless".

The home ministry, in its comments, had proposed that a Centralised Monitoring System (CMS), estimated to cost Rs 540 crore, be set up as an autonomous body headed by a chief executive. The oversight of this body should be vested with a small group comprising the cabinet secretary, home secretary and the Director of Intelligence Bureau (DIB), the ministry had said.

The Cabinet note had also said that the current system was full of risk of possible theft and misuse of data and leak of secure and personal information as they pass through multiple channels and networks. It has not denied possible presence of security bugs in the network used for interception.

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