The Telegraph
Friday , May 8 , 2015

House cry for tapping bar

New Delhi, May 7: Rajya Sabha MPs today demanded that tapping of their phones be treated as breach of privilege, the clamour fuelled by a House panel's report that unauthorised access to Arun Jaitley's call records in 2013 didn't amount to a violation.

The cry from the MPs cutting across party lines forced deputy chairman P.J. Kurien to announce that the privileges committee would "revisit" its report and consider enlarging the scope of the term "privileges" to include tapping as a breach. "The sense of the House is that it should be revisited. That I have already promised," the Congress leader, who heads the committee, said.

The report said while unauthorised access to such call records was "sinister and punishable" in the eyes of the law, it did not amount to breach of privilege as it "does not seem to cause any hindrance or obstruction in the functioning of a member of Parliament so as to attract breach of his parliamentary privileges".

Jaitley was leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha when some Delhi cops and others had obtained call records of the BJP leader. The incident had created a furore, with other MPs suspecting tapping of their phones, and forced the matter to be referred to the privileges committee .

Today, the issue was raised during zero hour by Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal. He alleged that now anybody can access the call details of MPs and no action would be taken against such people.

Congress MP Anand Sharma used the opportunity to attack the Narendra Modi government, alleging rampant tapping of the phones of political leaders and other prominent persons by the present administration.

"We can't allow India to be converted into a state where there is an atmosphere of distrust, fear and suspicion. We are being converted into a police state," Sharma said, demanding an inquiry by a sitting Supreme Court judge into the alleged tapping.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar denied the allegations and accused Sharma of trying to twist the issue. "He (Sharma) is taking it to the extent where nothing is happening, and he is creating something out of nothing", Javadekar said.

The CPM's Sitaram Yechury said as a member of the House panel, he supported the demand to enlarge the scope of the word "privileges" to include the larger issue of phone tapping.

Deputy Chairman Kurien said the sense of the House was supreme and promised to "revisit" the report on Jaitley. On the issue of including tapping, however, he promised to "come back after looking into the procedures".

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