III. Surveillance policies
Law Enforcement communications surveillance
Wiretapping is one of the most sensitive areas relating to privacy rights in Nepal. Our research shows that the security forces, with the help of telecommunication companies, frequently intercept phone communications, both mobile and fixed line. A recent scandal concerned the wiretapping of the mobile phone belonging to Maoist CA member Krishan Bahadur Mahara.
At present, there is no law regulating nor specific judicial process for authorizing communications interception. Our research found that if the security forces wish to intercept communications, they approach the telecommunications companies, who agree to help. Some wiretaps are set in place directly by the security forces.
On 18 June 2010, the Bill on Control and Punishment of Organized Crimes 2067 BS (2010) was approved by the Cabinet. This Bill authorizes investigating officials to collect vital information pertaining to organized crime through communications interception. The Bill has been submitted to the House for approval.
According to the Bill, investigating officials will be required to submit a written application to a seven-member body led by the chief of the Home Ministry's Peace and Security Division to request permission for phone tapping, giving reasons justifying it. Such permission will be time-limited.
The seven-member body is to be comprised of joint secretaries from the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Information and Communications, as well as a representative from each of the Nepal Police, the Armed Police Force, the National Investigation Department, and the Nepal Army.
This will be the first time the government has granted the police the right to intercept phone calls. The evidence collected through phone tapping will also be recognized by the courts.
Search & Seizure
Security forces can stop individuals anywhere at any time and search their body, belongings, and home. Although warrants or court orders are necessary for searching people's houses, the security forces do not bother to obtain the required authorization before conducting such searches. Human rights groups and other NGOs are advocating against these search and seizure procedures.