SC upholds Sebis power to seek user

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 14 2014, 05:41am hrs
Clearing the way for the regulator to go ahead and seek sensitive information, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld Sebis authority to ask for call data records (CDRs) of any person from telecom service providers it feels necessary to investigate market frauds.

While dismising an appeal filed by Mumbai-based Indian Council of Investors (ICI), a bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu upheld the Bombay High Courts order that gave thumbs up to Sebis power to seek sensitive data of subscribers from telecom and internet service providers in investigating frauds despite having no authority to do so.

However, the high court had asked Sebi to exercise caution as this power is capable of misuse and can violate a persons right to privacy.

ICI sought to restrain Sebi from calling for CDRs of 2,327 subscribers from telcos without any authority or permission.

Under the Indian Telegraph Act, only certain law enforcement agencies are authorised by the ministry of home affairs for interception, monitoring as well as collection of CDRs and Sebi does not figure in the list of such authorised agencies, it said, adding that Sebi is frequently asking for CDRs from telcos without having any legal authority to do so.

ICIs counsel Siddharth Chowdhary argued that Sebis action violates and infringes the fundamental right of privacy of an individual and was also prohibited under the Indian Telegraph Act.

Under the Indian Telegraph Act, only a few law enforcement agencies such as the CBI, ED and DRI are authorised to monitor and seek CDRs and Sebi is still not permitted as it needs an amendment to the Act.

However, Sebi stated that it has only called for data that is already available in the records of the telecom operators.