Bugging someone's office or residence, or illegally intercepting telephone calls is being made a serious offence attracting up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. The government will soon place in Parliament a Right to Privacy Bill, which intends to deal a body blow to the illegal business of snooping on citizens using sophisticated devices by individuals and detective firms.
The draft Bill lists out measures to protect personal information of citizens, including their private and family life, DNA profiles and fingerprints. The person whose privacy has been breached is also being given the right to seek compensation from the violator.
Work on the Bill, which gathered steam after industrialist Ratan Tata moved the Supreme Court pleading for protection of his privacy and destruction of personal conversations in the Niira Radia tapes, will be ready in less than a month and is likely to be placed before Parliament in the monsoon session beginning August 1.
Under the draft Bill, anyone making public private information about a person gathered through illegal means would be liable for a maximum punishment of three years' imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 50,000.
"Anyone who knowingly and willfully requests or obtains any record concerning an individual from any person or officer of the government or any agency thereof under false pretence shall be punishable with a fine which may extend to Rs 5 lakh," it says.
The fine would also be applicable to an officer of the government or that of an investigating agency, including those engaged in interception of telephones.
The interception of telephones can be authorized only at the Union home secretary or state home secretary level, the proposed Bill says. But, in exigencies, it can be done by joint secretary level officials.
In tune with Ratan Tata's request, the government's proposed Bill provides for means to destroy intercepted messages after six months, with only those required for investigation purposes being retained.
Doctors and hospitals too cannot disclose the health status of a person. If they do, they could face imprisonment up to six months and/or a fine of up to to Rs 1 lakh, says the draft Bill.