Wiretap/telephonic evidence legally admissible? Rajaratnam’s Trial in the United States and 2G Scam in India

I have posted earlier on the Rajaratnam trials and his conviction here.

One legal issue the Rajaratnam trial brings forth is the use of wiretap evidence as admissible evidence for prosecution of mainly economic crimes. In the United States, wiretap evidence is admissible ina  court of law to prove offences mentioned in 18 U.S.C. § 2516. Largely, these offences are of ‘wider public interest’ and could have a damaging effect on the victims or society as a whole. In the Galleon Insider Trading case, in which Rajaratnam was convicted, the wiretap evidence that was collected was actually for proving a much graver offence than Insider Trading, however the judge held that evidence to be admissible, although Insider Trading in not one of the offences enumerated in the relevant provision of the U.S. Code. See this, for the proceedings of the New York court which ruled for the admissibility of this intercepted evidence in the Galleon case.

On the other hand, in India, with the commotion regarding phone-tapping to detect tax evasion, money laundering etc and economic crimes, on the request of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Cabinet Secretary opined that tax evasion would not qualify as ‘public interest’ or as a ‘public emergency’ and phone tapping was therefore, not necessary. However, he suggested improvement in the rules regulating tax evasion and tightening norms of prosecution with stricter penalties for these offences. The end result being the suggestion for the removal of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) as an authorized governmental agency that allowed telephonic interception to detect evasion.

With the rising economic status of India in the world, economic crimes such as evasion, money laundering etc. should be dealt with with a heavy hand. Also, white collar crimes have been on the rise, and new methods of prosecution should be permitted with a leeway on the kind of evidence that should be admissible in trial of these criminals. Obviously, this should not mean compromising with the due process of law.

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