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Himachal phone-tap gun on Dhumal

Shimla, Feb. 18: Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh today accused predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal of “masterminding” the phone tapping scandal.

“How can he say that he had no knowledge of phone tapping? It was his moral responsibility as he was also the home minister, so how can he deny the responsibility or knowledge of the phone tapping? The brain behind it all was the former chief minister,” Virbhadra said.

The chief minister said the phone tapping probe report has made it clear that Dhumal’s BJP government put the phones of senior Opposition leaders under surveillance.

“I got the report today and have told my officials to look into how many of them were recorded without following due norms. Nobody will be spared, no matter how high he may be. This is infringement of democratic rights, especially the right to privacy, which can’t be tolerated,” Virbhadra said, adding that more than a thousand phones were tapped.

The chief minister said action against those found guilty would be taken after finding out the exact number of phones tapped in violation of the Indian Telegraph Act. Since phones were tapped in bulk, there is no denying that norms were flouted, he said.

“The privacy of certain political leaders was infringed upon. There were even instances of bugging in my offices in Himachal Bhavan, Chandigarh,” he said.

Dhumal has washed his hands of the controversy. “The home secretary decides whether it is appropriate to put the phones under observation or not. The permission to tap the phones was given by the then home secretary and not by the chief minister’s office,” he iterated.

On Friday, a three-member probe panel had tabled the forensic report of eight of the 12 computer hard disks seized on December 25 and 26 from the CID and the vigilance department.