Centre clubs 3 cases

The Congress-led UPA government on Thursday took its fight against the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi a step further with its decision to set up a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the snooping scandal, prompting the saffron party to cry foul.

The Centre has brought together cases of a private detective collecting call details of BJP leader Arun Jaitley in Delhi and the snooping on Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh during the BJP’s rule, along with allegations of snooping on a young woman architect in Gujarat at the behest of Modi’s man Friday Amit Shah.

The BJP called the move an effort to circumvent the CoI Act, which does not allow the Centre to order a CoI when a state has already constituted one.

However, it allows the Centre to do so only if “scope of the inquiry” extends to two or more states.

The Cabinet’s decision came against the backdrop of fresh allegations that the woman was snooped on beyond Gujarat at the behest of “saheb”. News portals Gulail and Cobrapost claimed that the “saheb” was Modi.

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had, however, said there was “no vendetta, no revenge, no politics”.

“We are taking action on the basis of facts and following the people’s representations sent to the President (who forwarded a petition submitted to him by 45 women activists seeking a probe). We are taking action as per the people’s wish,” Shinde said.

Gujarat had also set up a CoI into the snooping, which the BJP claimed was purported to give discreet security to the woman, but faced criticism as its Terms of Reference were restrictive in nature. The Gujarat CoI would not look into Shah’s motives but probe if audio tapes released by the portals were genuine. It would also investigate whether there was any conspiracy behind releasing recordings of the four-year-old conversations. The Congress had called it “Modi Bachao (Save Modi) Commission”.

Home Ministry sources said the Gujarat Police appeared to have tapped the woman’s phone when she was in Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, besides Gujarat, without any authorisation from the Union Home Secretary.

The home minister has written to the Law Ministry to suggest a few people who could be part of the CoI. The commission would submit its report within three months.

Though Modi maintained a stoic silence on the issue, the BJP went into an offensive, with Jaitley saying the decision was an “affront” to the states and the Centre’s move would be challenged in court.

“This action is politically motivated. The setting up of a parallel commission by the central government ostensibly on the pretext of this issue covering more than one state is without any basis. The Congress cannot fight Modi politically, so they are coming up with such actions,” Jaitley said.

He also referred to the UPA’s earlier move to set up the Justice U C Banerjee committee to probe into the Godhra riots when the Justice Nanavati Commission was already investigating it.

Home Ministry sources said the Gujarat Police appeared to have tapped the woman’s phone when she was in Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, besides Gujarat, without any authorisation from the Union Home Secretary.

The home minister has written to the Law Ministry to suggest a few people who could be part of the CoI. The commission would submit its report within three months.

Though Modi maintained a stoic silence on the issue, the BJP went into an offensive, with Jaitley saying the decision was an “affront” to the states and the Centre’s move would be challenged in court.

“This action is politically motivated. The setting up of a parallel commission by the central government ostensibly on the pretext of this issue covering more than one state is without any basis. The Congress cannot fight Modi politically, so they are coming up with such actions,” Jaitley said.

He also referred to the UPA’s earlier move to set up the Justice U C Banerjee committee to probe into the Godhra riots when the Justice Nanavati Commission was already investigating it.

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