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Centre rules out snoop panel

New Delhi, May 9: The Centre today assured the Supreme Court that there is no proposal to set up a judicial panel to probe the Gujarat “snoopgate” controversy linked to the Narendra Modi-led government.

A bench of Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and N.V. Ramana recorded an undertaking to this effect from solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran, who represented the Centre and cited Union law minister Kapil Sibal’s assertion earlier this week that there was no plan to set up the panel.

“I am making a statement that there is no proposal to appoint a commission of inquiry as per the statement of the Union law minister Kapil Sibal,” Parasaran said in a brief submission.

After that, the bench said that a petition filed by the Gujarat woman at the centre of the alleged snooping against the probe had become “infructuous” (irrelevant) in view of the Centre’s assurance. The woman and her father had in their petition also complained about encroachment of her privacy.

The judges asked Ranjit Kumar, the lawyer for the woman’s family, to approach Gujarat High Court with his request to stay a state government probe by a two-member commission into the incidents.

Before that, the bench had asked the state’s additional advocate-general, Tushar Mehta, whether the state government was in favour of continuing with the probe. Mehta could not furnish proper reply and sought time, prompting the bench to direct Kumar to move the high court for relief.

At one point during the hearing, counsel Prashant Bhushan sought to intervene in the matter on behalf of his client, suspended IPS officer Pradeep Sharma, who had in a separate application raised the snooping allegations against Modi. But the bench did not permit Bhushan, saying his application was related to another matter that would be dealt with separately.

The woman and her father had filed the petition on Tuesday, requesting the apex court protect their fundamental “right to privacy” while asserting that the surveillance was done at the family’s request.

“In this crossfire between vested interests, the petitioners, as collateral damages, are subjected to a violation of their fundamental rights on a daily basis,” their petition said.

The Congress-led UPA government had drawn fire over the move from the BJP, which had dubbed it “politics of vendetta”. UPA partners NCP and National Conference had also questioned the plan, saying the Centre should not name a judge in the “dying hours” of its term.