CIAA riding roughshod over right to privacy

November 14, 2016 07:45 AM Deepak Kharel

Sophisticated gear used to collect private and confidential information on people not related to any investigations

KATHMANDU, Nov 13: Flouting a constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is found to be collecting private and confidential information of various individuals. 

Although the CIAA announced earlier that it had stopped collecting such information, highly-placed sources at the anti-graft body confirmed that the constitutional body continues to collect private information, under pressure from its suspended chief, Lokman Singh Karki. The CIAA is using various sophisticated equipment, including such as those used by the Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI) of the US, to collect private information on incumbent ministers and heads of constitutional bodies. 

Sources said the CIAA is using FBI software to trace their contacts and track the use of social networking sites to extract sensitive information. The FBI uses such software to locate those accused of terrorism and serious crime. A police section at the CIAA, acting under the directions of suspended CIAA chief Karki, mobilized an inspector and two sub-inspectors to track the mobile numbers of individuals for locating their physical presence, and tracing other persons in contact with them  and the conversations they had.

According to a police official who previously served at the division, the CIAA has been using the sophisticated equipment even to trace call details of persons not related to any investigation. Police Inspector Dipendra Adhikari, who is currently serving at the UN Mission, and sub-inspectors Purna Chand and Shyam Sundar Ghimire had been spying on persons as directed by Karki, through the use of two laptops equipped with various sophisticated devices and IBM software.

Sources said suspended CIAA chief Karki had exerted pressure on the police high command to provide the CIAA laptops being used by its Central Bureau of Investigation (CIB) and experts. They are being used to track information as directed by Karki instead of investigating complaints registered at the CIAA.

The CIAA has been using even a Voice Spectrome Machine time and again to identify voices . 

“One is not in a situation to say or do anything when information related to each meeting, conversation and physical presence is tracked,” a CIAA commissioner told Republica on  condition of anonymity. 

“Information on persons ranging from contractors to government ministers has been reaching Karki.”

The two sophisticated laptops costing Rs 9 million were provided by the US embassy in Kathmandu to assist the Nepal Police in its investigations.

The use of sophisticated gear to gain private and confidential information on individuals goes against the spirit of the constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy. Advocate Satish Krishna Kharel said although the existing legal provisions allow the authorities to obtain information on those accused of drug trafficking and organized crime, it is a gross misuse of existing legal provisions to arbitrarily collect private and confidential information on individuals not related to any such offenses. 

Homework to build lab 
Sources said Karki was trying to develop the CIAA into something like a powerful espionage body in order to collect vital information on his opponents. The CIAA had called a public tender last year, requesting eligible firms to supply the equipment needed in order to execute its plan. 

However, the anti-graft body later rejected the tender bids without citing any reasons.

Sources said the CIAA later procured equipment on its own in secrecy. “Karki was more interested in buying sophisticated equipment which can record audio and video on persons under surveillance instead of equipment to facilitate crime investigations,” said the source.

Asked about the use of such sophisticated equipment, CIAA spokesperson Ganesh Raj Karki said no such equipment is being used by them.

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