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Govt refutes phone tapping charge

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 6: The Naveen Patnaik government today asserted in the Assembly that no politician’s telephone was being tapped in the state.

The statement came after the Opposition had alleged that a number of telephones, including those of ministers, were being monitored by the state government.

“It is being said that the chief minister has ordered the tapping of phones even of his ministerial colleagues and political opponents,” said leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh, demanding a statement from Naveen Patnaik on the floor of the House.

“No telephone of ministers or politicians has been tapped,” said parliamentary affairs minister Kalpataru Das.

Quoting a reply from the state home department under the Right to Information Act by a social activist, the leader of Opposition said the government had admitted that telephones of as many as 4,620 persons across the state had been tapped between December 29, 2008, and September 15 this year.

“But, the government has not disclosed the names of the people whose telephones are being tapped and also not mentioned the reasons for tapping. This has given rise to discussion in public that this is being done at the behest of the chief minister,” he said.

The Opposition parties have accused the chief minister of using police intelligence to keep a tab on politicians following the attempted May 29 coup against him.

Expelled BJD leader and Rajya Sabha member Pyarimohan Mohapatra had alleged that his telephone and those of his supporters were being tapped and had demanded resignation of the chief minister.

“Let the chief minister explain and clarify on the floor of the House how many people are anti-national or terrorists here. Otherwise, the Opposition’s charge that he is hounding political opponents will be considered as true and the chief minister should step down,” Singh said citing the infamous telephone tapping controversy in Karnataka during R.K. Hegde’s regime in 1988.

BJP legislature party leader K.V. Singhdeo claimed that two private agencies had been entrusted by the state government to tap the telephones. “The chief minister, who heads the home department, should explain as to how private organisations were allowed to tap the phone of 4,600-odd individuals and who those individuals are and why they are considered anti-national,” said the BJP leader.

“The government need not give the names of individuals, but should give the telephone numbers,” he said.

Parliamentary affairs minister Das said the Centre and the state government were authorised under the Indian Telegraph Act to intercept telephones calls in case of “any public emergency or in the interest of public safety”. He said only telephones of “anti-nationals and criminals” have been tapped and “no politicians” were in the list.

However, he declined to divulge further details citing security reasons. The minister said: “In Odisha, only 4,620 telephones have been intercepted in the past four years. On the other hand, according to the Centre’s own admission, it allows interception of 7,500 to 9,000 telephones per month on an average.”