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Interception of Wire, Electronic or Oral Communication (Sections 13-16) Under The Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999

Section 13 - Appointment of Competent Authority:
The State Government has the authority to appoint one of its officers from the Home Department, specifically someone not lower in rank than the position of Secretary to the Government, to serve as the Competent Authority for the purposes mentioned in Section 14.

Section 14 - Authorization of Communication Interception:
  1. Application for Authorization: A police officer of at least the rank of Superintendent of Police, who is overseeing an investigation related to organized crime under this Act, can submit a written application to the Competent Authority. This application requests the authorization or approval to intercept wire, electronic, or oral communications when such interception could provide evidence of an offense involving organized crime.
  2. Contents of Application:
    • Identity of the applicant and the department authorizing the application.
    • Details about the organized crime offense.
    • Description of the communication facilities and their location.
    • Type of communication to be intercepted.
    • Identity of the person involved in the organized crime offense.
    • Explanation of why other investigation methods are not suitable.
    • Duration for which interception is needed.

  3. Additional Evidence: The Competent Authority can ask the applicant to provide more evidence, either verbally or through documents, to support the application.
  4. Authorization Criteria:
    • Belief that a specific organized crime offense is being or will be committed.
    • Belief that intercepting communication will provide evidence related to the offense.
    • Efforts to use other investigation methods.
    • Belief that the communication facilities are linked to the offense.
  5. Specifics in Authorization Order: The authorization order will specify various details, including the identity of the person whose communication will be intercepted, the location, type of communication, identity of the agency authorized to intercept, and the authorized duration.
  6. Submission to Review Committee: The Competent Authority must send a copy of the order to the Review Committee, along with all relevant documents, within seven days of issuing the order for their consideration and approval.
  7. Cooperation Requirement: The order can also direct providers of communication services, landlords, custodians, or others to cooperate in providing information and assistance for the interception.
  8. Time Limit: The interception cannot last longer than necessary, with a maximum period of sixty days. Extensions may be granted but require a new application and meet the necessary criteria.
  9. Progress Reports: Reports on the progress of the interception must be made to the Competent Authority.
  10. Emergency Situations: In emergency situations involving immediate danger or serious offenses, an officer of at least the rank of Additional Director General of Police can authorize interception, provided an application for approval is submitted within 48 hours.
  11. Termination and Violations: Interception must cease when the objective is achieved or if the application for approval is rejected. Violations may lead to the evidence being considered as obtained illegally.
  12. Recording and Retention: Intercepted communication must be recorded and kept for ten years.
  13. Admissibility of Evidence: Evidence obtained through interception can be used in court but must be disclosed to all parties, and a ten-day notice period is usually required.
Section 15 - Review Committee for Authorization Orders:
There will be a Review Committee responsible for reviewing every order issued by the Competent Authority under Section 14.
Composition of the Review Committee:
  1. Chief Secretary to the Government (Chairman)
  2. Additional Chief Secretary or the most senior Principal Secretary in the Home Department (Member)
  3. Principal Secretary or Secretary and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs from the Law and Judiciary Department (Member)
Review Process: The Review Committee must consider each order passed by the Competent Authority under Section 14 within ten days of receiving it. Their task is to determine if the order, which authorizes or approves interception, was necessary, reasonable, and justified. They also review orders disapproving interception made under emergency situations. Committee's Decision: After reviewing the entire record and conducting any necessary inquiries, the Review Committee can issue a written order either approving the Competent Authority's order or disapproving it. If they disapprove the order, any ongoing interception must be immediately stopped. Intercepted communication, in the form of tapes, wires, or other devices, is not admissible as evidence and must be destroyed upon disapproval by the Review Committee.

Section 16 - Interception and Disclosure of Communications Prohibited:
This section outlines actions that are prohibited regarding the interception and disclosure of wire, electronic, or oral communications. If a police officer intentionally engages in any of the following activities, they can face penalties:
  1. Intercepting Communication: A police officer intentionally intercepts, tries to intercept, or encourages someone else to intercept any wire, electronic, or oral communication.
  2. Using Devices for Interception: A police officer intentionally uses, tries to use, or encourages someone else to use electronic, mechanical, or other devices to intercept oral communication when:
    1. The device is connected to a wire, cable, or similar connection used in wire communication.
    2. The device transmits communications by radio or interferes with such communication.
  3. Disclosure of Intercepted Information: A police officer intentionally discloses or tries to disclose the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication to another person, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through illegal interception.
  4. Use of Intercepted Information: A police officer intentionally uses or tries to use the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained through illegal interception.
  5. Disclosure to Obstruct Investigation: A police officer intentionally discloses or tries to disclose the contents of any wire, electronic, or oral communication intercepted using the authorization under Section 14 in connection with a criminal investigation under this Act, with the intent to improperly obstruct, impede, or interfere with a duly authorized criminal investigation.
  6. Continuing Unauthorized Interception: A police officer continues to intercept wire, electronic, or oral communication after the Review Committee has issued an order of disapproval under Section 15(4).

Violating any of these provisions can lead to imprisonment for up to one year and a fine of up to fifty thousand rupees.

Written By: Harshavardhan Prakash Deshmukh, 4th Year Of B.A.LL.B. - Modern Law College, Pune,

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