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UPA govt firm on snoopgate probe

UPA govt firm on snoopgate probe
Highlights

UPA Government Firm on Snoopgate Probe, the Congress is determined to press ahead with the probe into the scandal of snooping and stalking the private life of a woman, at the behest of the Gujarat Government.

  • Keen to appoint judge by May 16
  • BJP objects, calls move mala fide

UPA Government Firm on Snoopgate ProbeNew Delhi: Bracing for a political battle to target BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in the snoopgate, the Congress is determined to press ahead with the probe into the scandal of snooping and stalking the private life of a woman, at the behest of the Gujarat Government. Before May 16, the day of the election results, the Congress-led UPA Government is keen to appoint a judge to head the commission of inquiry to investigate the snoopgate linked to Modi. The government is virtually forcing the hand of Modi, to either review the decision in the event of his forming the Government after May 16, by disbanding the Commission of Inquiry, or to face the proceedings – in either case it will be faced with political embarrassment.

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said, “The Union Cabinet has cleared it. My fear is that as Chief Minister, Modi was snooping on women. So what will happen to our women if he becomes the Prime Minister?” Backing Shinde, Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal said, “The judge heading the commission will be appointed before May 16. Why is Modi afraid of a probe? Gujarat set up a commission choosing their own judge against themselves, like the Nanavati Commission of Inquiry? Why are they scared of an independent probe?”

According to sources, Allahabad High Court Chief Justice Dhananjay Yashwant Chandrachud is being requested to nominate a judge to head the inquiry panel into the snoopgate. Sources in Government said the Model Code of Conduct does not apply, as the Cabinet decision was taken last year. After the Chief Justice recommends a name, it will be duly notified. No fresh decision is involved in the matter and there would be no violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

Although the Gujarat Government has set up a Commission of Inquiry, a parallel probe under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1951, was justified by the Centre, on the ground that the snooping was across the States and would require mandatory authorization from the Union Home Secretary. There is also the question of examining whether due procedures were followed under the Indian Telegraph Act.

The Union Cabinet had approved the setting up of the probe under Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1951, which has powers to summon witnesses, to question them and go into the entire gamut of issues arising out of it, like fixing of responsibility for the unauthorized physical/electronic surveillance across two to three States; systemic changes to ensure checks and balances; and possible directions to register an FIR or start disciplinary proceedings against errant officials involved in it.

Though the identity of the “saheb” featuring in Gujarat snoopgate intercepts of conversations between Amit Shah and suspended State police officer G L Singhal is not clear, according to the expose of some media portals, the reference was to none other than Modi.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley sharply reacted to media reports that the Congress-led UPA Government is finally planning to name a judge for the Snoopgate Commission. Opposing what he called the lame-duck government move, he asserted that a future Government would be well within its legitimate rights to review such a mala-fide last-minute decision of the UPA. “When the Model Code of Conduct is in force, how is it tenable for the Government to take a decision on the choice of the judge?” asked Jaitley.

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