- Call Records are simply the systematic logs of telephonic calls made from a particular number to other numbers.
- Unlike "phone tapping", it does not contain the contents of the call.
- Call Records are admissible as evidences under section 65B of the Evidence Act.
- Call Records are used as evidence in Courts and by Arbitrators, for tracing absconding or missing persons, retrieving lost mobile phones, etc.
- Call Records can be obtained by no officer with rank less than that of a Police Superintendent.
- Call Records can be obtained from telecom companies vide a Court order/direction only.
- Individuals can obtain recent Call Records without Court Order by approaching the Customer Support Service of the company.
WHAT ARE CALL RECORDS & WHY THEY'RE NEEDED
As the name suggests, 'Call records' or 'call track records', aresimply the systematic logs of telephonic calls made from a particular number and/or device to other numbers. Even though such records are usually stored for a shorter time span (usually few days) in the device/instrument used for making such call, the records for a longer duration (several months)can only be accessed only through the telecom companies.Call records primarily includes information related to-
1. The exact number of calls made from a number,
2. List of other numbers to whom calls were made,
3. Exact time and duration of such calls, and
4. Which tower the person received network from while making the particular call.
The Call Records are used as a major source of evidence by parties pleading in a Court. The most common usage of such records is observed in criminal matters for either proving alibi of the accused person by Defence attorney, or disproving of the same by the Prosecution. However, usage of Call Records is not restricted to just criminal matters and is seen in civil conflicts involving contract claims, business transactions, and family disputes, among others. It must be noted that Call Records are simply the records of telephonic calls made, and are not the same as "Phone Tapping" which also contain the content of the call.
Call Records are admissible as valid evidences in Courts and Tribunals under Section 65B of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It provides, "any information contained in an electronic record which is printed on a paper, stored, recorded or copied in optical or magnetic media produced by a computer (hereinafter referred to as the computer output) shall be deemed to be also a document". The Supreme Court too recently directed Telecom companies "to maintain call data records (CDRs) and other relevant electronic records seized during an investigation in a segregated and secure manner."
Other than being used as evidence in Courts, Call Records are may be used inter alia for certain other purposes such as:
- use for investigation by law enforcement agencies,
- use as evidence by Arbitrators,
- for tracing absconding or missing persons,
- for retrieving lost or stolen mobile phones, or
- for other personal use.
It was once pointed out by the Crime Investigation Division (CID) Branch of a Statethat it solved over 200 cases in a year simply with the assistance of Call Records. The technical cell of the said branch of CID reported that it receives around a 100 requests per day from investigating agents and returns the required information within 12 hours, as the requests are immediately forwarded to Telecom Companies.
PROCEDURE FOR OBTAINING CALL RECORDS
As easy as it may sound, obtaining the Call Records is rather a tedious process, which is a necessary evil owing to the possibility of grave misuse of such records. For instance, in 2012, the erstwhile Home Minister RR Patil had acknowledged the anathema of call recordings and phone tapping, and promised action against telecomcompanies that were found to be under covenant with any private detective agency and indulged in offering of call records of any mobile number. In another instance, the Government was compelled to revise guidelines after then Finance Minister ArunJaitely too became a victim of phone tapping.
Therefore, to prevent such misuse, it is necessary that the Call Records are stored securely, and protected by stringent laws. As per the present Government guidelines, the Telecom companies are required to store the Call Records of up to 6 months. It can be more, depending on the Telecom Company. A particular Call Record, after being stored and being readily available for access for a fixed duration (say, 6 months), is then archived to tapes. These archives cannot berecovered easily, except in circumstances involving an immediate threat to national security or high profile cases of public importance.
The first sine-qua-non for obtaining the Call Records is that a Court is satisfied that access to such recordings is necessary for expeditious disposal of a case. On a prayer by any of the parties, the Court can direct competent law enforcing agency or appropriate authority to request the Call Records from the concerned Telecom Company. If a phone number is registered under a particular Telecom Company, its Call Record can be accessed only through that company.
The second condition is regarding 'who' can request access to such data. After the aforesaid phone tapping of the former Finance Minister's mobile phone, the government was compelled to revise certain guidelines, and as of present, no officer with rank less than that of a Police Superintendent can obtain Call Records from Telecom Companies. Prior to this revision, even private Call Records could be accessed by any authority or law enforcing agency, including an Additional Police Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Central Bureau of Investigation and National Investigation Agency, among others.
Moreover, as per the revised guidelines, the following points are to be taken care of:
• The officer concerned, who is responsible to obtain the data, is required to make a directory of the obtained records and submit it to the District Magistrate.
• The District Magistrate is then required to send the details to the concerned Chief Secretary so that a state-wide record can effectively be maintained.
• At present, every Additional Commissioner of Police (ACP) or Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) of the district, the Crime Branch, Economic Wing, Special Cell, IG Airport ACP and Special Cell, Crime Branch have been authorised to obtain Call Records.
• There is no fixed time duration for getting access to the Call Record, and depending on the urgency in the case, it may take anywhere between a few hours to several days.
METHOD OF OBTAINING CALL RECORDS WITHOUT COURT ORDER
If for any reason, you need to access your Call Records that are no longer available on the device, the only method to do this is to contact your Telecom Company's Customer Support Service. Only the Company can you in knowing which data is sharable for them, and giving you access to the recent data. However, if the record that you are seeking is older than what the Company can allow you, there is no other remedy as efficacious as filing an application beforea court, requesting it to direct the concerned Police Station to further order the TelecomCompany to grant you access to the details.
Even though call records are essential for the purpose of assisting Courts in expeditious disposal of certain cases, and despite that they offer numerous usages such as assistance in investigation, finding of missing or absconding persons, etc., they are still subject to grave misuse. Therefore it is essential that Government remains proactive and ensures necessary and timely revision of laws provisions governing such tools, which are capable of causing serious privacy concerns.