New Delhi, Mar 1 (PTI): The government on Friday rejected allegation of phone tapping of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley and promised to get the full details of the “unauthorised” obtaining of call details of the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha.
“The government did not authorise anybody to intercept the telephone of the LOP,” Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said in a statement in the Upper House, where he came in for sharp criticism by non-Congress members on the issue.
Shinde said, “This was not a case of telephone tapping. The Indian government is not tapping any member's phone.”
Rejecting the statement, BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said “it is nothing but reporting of a (SHO)” in a reference to how police station house officers only say that investigation is going on and interrogation has taken place.
“Normally the suspicion goes to the government...how can such activity take place without the knowledge of the government or its consent...is there anything for government to hide...there is something fishy...there is something more than what meets the eyes. How can you be sure that phone tapping did not take place?” Naidu asked.
Ramgopal Yadav of Samajwadi also wondered as to why a constable required the call data records of a big leader like the LOP. “Who is behind it?” he said, adding doubts have been expressed that CDRs of 100 leaders of both Houses have been taken out.
Shinde said the government will consider the suggestion of the SP member that it should be made mandatory to seek the permission of the Rajya Sabha Chairman before the call detail records of any member is obtained and promised to write to the telephone department in this regard.
He also made it clear that what has been detected is “not the monitoring of telephone conversation, which is ordinarily called tapping, but accessing of the CDR”.
But, Opposition members suspected the phones of their leaders were being tapped and suspected government's hand in it.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said his name was also in the list of those whose phones were being tapped.
Insisting that the government did not authorise anybody to intercept the telephone of the LOP, Shinde said, “While there is a law for intercepting telephone, there is no such thing for CDR.”
As Opposition members sought to know at whose behest the call details of the Leader of Opposition were gathered by detective agencies and who were paying for it, he promised to go in full details of the incident but refused to commit a time line for completion of the “serious investigation”.
Shinde informed the House that interrogation of constable Arvind Kumar Dabas has revealed that he has provided call details of various people on 10-15 occasions in past.
Opposition members wanted the Home Minister to disclose the names.
Naidu expressed concern saying “they are keeping a watch on Parliamentary system. Home Minister must share with the House the information he has. This cannot be treated in a casual manner.”
Shinde, however, made it clear that in the case being investigated by the Delhi Police, attempt was made unauthorisedly to access the call data record, the details of numbers called and received and duration of the conversation.
“This was not a case of telephone tapping,” he said, adding, “the Indian government is not tapping any member's phone if at all permission is given. The Union Home Secretary is the competent authority to allow phone tapping under the Indian Telegraph Act.”
The Home Minister said the government taken the issue very seriously.
“Enquiry is on. We will go into full details. LOP is not an ordinary man. We will get to its bottom. Such investigations are serious investigations. Police have to go into details. We will do it as early as possible. Please do not insist on time limit,” he said.
Earlier, Ramgopal Yadav rued that the Home Minister did not give any new information in his statement and said more information is available in newspaper reports.
Rajiv Pratap Rudy (BJP) alleged that the Home Minister knows the facts but was hiding, to which Yadav asked Shinde, “Why are you hiding?”