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Centre to probe Gujarat ‘snoopgate’
Publication Date : 27-12-2013
The Union Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to set up a Commission of Inquiry to probe into the Gujarat Snoopgate - allegedly involving the Gujarat chief minister and the oppostion party BJP’s prime minister candidate, Narendra Modi - besides some other surveillance cases of Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.
The Congress-led UPA government’s decision instantly generated political heat, with the BJP crying foul over the government’s alleged bid to target Modi in the run-up to the April-May 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Both the Centre and the Congress rejected such allegations of “political vendetta and witch-hunt”.
“There is no vendetta, no revenge, no politics. We are taking action on the basis of facts and following the people’s representations sent to the President,” Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde reportedly said.
“The Cabinet has approved a proposal to set up a Commission of Inquiry under Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, to look into the incidents of physical/electronic surveillance in the states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, allegedly without authorisation,” an official statement said.
The Central Commission, possibly comprising of few members, is expected to be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and would be required to submit its report within three months.
The Gujarat Snoopgate controversy broke out when two investigative news portals, Cobrapost and Gulail, last month released audio tapes of recorded phone conversations in 2009 purportedly between the then Gujarat minister of state for home and close Modi aide, Amit Shah, and the senior Gujarat IPS officer, G L Singhal.
The news portals charged that Shah had allegedly ordered the Gujarat police machinery to carry out comprehensive surveillance-cum-phone tapping on a woman architect, her friends and family members illegally at the behest of his “Saheb”, which was alleged to be Modi. Modi and Shah have not responded to these allegations till date, but the BJP has dismissed them as unfounded and baseless.
The Centre's decision today overruled the contention of the BJP that the matter was a state subject and that the Gujarat government, following the snowballing of the controversy, had already set up a state Commission of Inquiry to look into it. Under the Commission of Inquiry Act, the Centre or the state government cannot appoint an Inquiry Commission into a matter if either of them has already constituted a Commission on the same matter.
Section 3 of the Act, however, bars the Centre in this regard “unless the Central Government is of the opinion that the scope of the Inquiry should be extended to two or more states”.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, said, “The setting up of this Commission violates the federal structure of the Constitution. It is an affront to the states. I hope other chief ministers also join in the protest against this action.”