Describing the phone tapping of four political leaders as a serious matter, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Saturday said such acts could not be tolerated.
Referring to the report published in Outlook magazine about the interception of phone calls, including those of CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, the Polit Bureau said in a statement that this showed that the government was using intelligence and security agencies to serve its political purpose and spy on Opposition leaders, and to keep track of even its own allies and party leaders.
“Such acts subvert the democratic system and breed an atmosphere of illegality in the higher echelons of the government. They cannot be tolerated,” the statement said.
It added that the government must own up responsibility in the matter and take action against those who ordered the surveillance. “Protecting the covert activities of intelligence and security agencies cannot be made the pretext for a cover-up,” it said.
The CPI(M) said that in order to prevent the recurrence of such incidents, the Centre should put in place a clear set of guidelines prohibiting the use of intelligence and security agencies for any form of surveillance of political leaders and their activities.
“Instructions on tapping of phones and surveillance on grounds of national security or investigation of criminal activity must be codified. The intelligence and security agencies must be subject to parliamentary oversight,” it said.
Condemning the phone tapping exercise, the Communist Party of India demanded that the government release the list of those political leaders whose phones were tapped and act against those responsible for it.
‘Tip of the iceberg'
In a statement, the party Central Secretariat said that whatever was published in the report appeared to be the tip of the iceberg, adding that the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) is alleged to have carried out the exercise on behalf of the government obviously on instructions from political bosses.
The CPI said the government was misusing the power of the NTRO — created after the Kargil war — to tap the conversations of political leaders in order to prolong its survival, instead of using it to gather information about the activities of anti-nationals, smugglers, terrorists and tax evaders.
“This is an unethical, unconstitutional and most shameful act on the part of the Government of India. This goes against the directives of the Supreme Court also,” the CPI added.
The Bharatiya Janata Party also slammed the Centre on the issue, saying it was resorting to such “despotic actions” as it had failed to perform on all fronts.
“In the garb of tackling terror, the government is tracking politicians and even its own Cabinet Ministers from alliance parties. Apparently, it has failed on all fronts, making them seemingly insecure and prompting such despotic actions,” BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.
Terming the phone tapping an “outright violation of laws and bizarre infringement of our fundamental rights,” Mr. Rudy demanded a “clear statement” on the issue from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament.
Janata Dal (United) general secretary Javed Raza condemned the phone tapping of senior politicians, in particular that of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, saying it smacked of Congress rule during Emergency days.