We are glad to see that ten Supreme Court lawyers have taken steps to hold the authorities to account with regard to leaked telephone conversations and the violation of the right to privacy that this entails. According to a report in this daily, a legal notice was served on the government in order to know what necessary steps have been taken to prevent the incidents of phone tapping and to ensure the right to privacy of telecommunication. The notice clarified that if the respondents do not provide the information in seven days, the notice senders will have no other option but to take legal action in order to get proper redress.
This legal notice is a timely one since, in recent years, we have seen numerous incidents of eavesdropping and recording of private telephone conversations. One of the most recent such incidents was a phone conversation between a Superintendent of Police and an Additional Superintendent of Police, who were later temporarily suspended, allegedly over their remarks regarding Rab and its officials. Whether such remarks made over private conversations can lead to official action was not made clear by the authorities.
Article 43 of the Constitution of Bangladesh grants every citizen the right to the privacy of their correspondence and other means of communication, subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State, public order, public morality or public health. However, in most cases of phone calls being recorded, it is not clear whether it was done in these interests, or even whether it was done with state permission at all. The laws of this country clearly state such recordings can only be made with official consent.
Even if there is just cause to make such recordings, the public leaking of such conversations is certainly a breach of every individual's right to privacy, which the state has the responsibility of upholding. The legal notice that has been served on the government demonstrates how the authorities have failed to carry out their responsibilities and allowed one case of eavesdropping after another to continue unabated, with little concern about the negative repercussions of personal information being made widely available to the public through leakages of (often illegally) recorded conversations. We hope the authorities will take this notice as a wakeup call, shake off their apathy over this issue and take action to ensure citizens' right to privacy that is enshrined in the Constitution. Phone tapping violates our constitutional rights and must be stopped immediately.