Opposition may rock House over phone taps

Opposition may rock House over phone taps

Indications on Saturday were that the opposition would make it very difficult for the two Houses of Parliament to hold scheduled business unless the government came up with a convincing explanation on the media reports about the telephone-tapping.

It hardly helps the government that the agency concerned that reportedly tapped the phones – the National Technological Reconnaissance Organsation – functions under the Cabinet Secretariat which directly reports to the Prime Minister. 

The political leaders whose phones were tapped are all bigwigs, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat, Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar, Union agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and, surprisingly, a top Congress leader Digvijay Singh, a former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. 

Angry over tapping of his party leader’s phone, CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury said: “Protecting the covert activities of the intelligence and security agencies cannot be made the pretext for a cover-up...It’s outrageous.”

“The report shows that the government is using the intelligence and security agencies to serve its political purpose to spy upon opposition leaders and to keep track of even its own allies and party leaders,” said the CPM.

 Karat's phone conversations with leaders of other parties were allegedly tapped at the height of UPA-Left tension during the Indo-US Nuclear Bill in debate in 2008.
Nitish Kumar’s party colleague in the Rajya Sabha Ali Anwar Ansari trained the gun against the Congress. “It is murder of democracy. The Congress has a track record of stifling democracy.”

The BJP, the main opposition in Parliament, accused the Congress of taking India back to the “Emergency” days of 1975-77. The BJP planned to raise the issue in the Houses on Monday. The demand for a probe into phone-tapping has also come from within the Congress. Digvijay Singh said the government should launch an investigation into the alleged phone-tapping episode. But he gave the benefit of doubt to the Prime Minister. “I don't believe Manmohan Singh government can do such an unethical thing,” Singh said.
“Barring situations (when such actions are needed in the interest) of national security, phone-tapping is illegal under the Indian Telegraph Act,” Singh added.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni claimed she was not aware of any order authorising tapping of phones of political leaders. The government would react to the report on Monday, she said.

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