States

9 days on, phone-tapping probe panel yet to get formal approval

Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had announced that the committee would submit its report within six weeks. file photo

Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had announced that the committee would submit its report within six weeks. file photo  

One of two committee members opts out; State seeks DGP’s opinion on modalities

Nine days after it had ordered an investigation by a two-member committee into allegations of phone tapping of rival politicians when the Devendra Fadnavis-led Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government was in power, the State is still dilly-dallying on issuing a formal order for it.

Earlier this month, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had announced that the committee would submit its report within six weeks. However, it is learnt that at least one of the two members has refused to take up the responsibility and has asked the State to look for a replacement.

The committee formation is also delayed after the additional chief secretary (Home) requested an opinion from the Director General of Police (DGP), Maharashtra Police, on the modalities of the panel, which consists of additional chief secretary (Home) Shrikant Singh and Joint Commissioner (Intelligence) Amitesh Kumar, officials said.

While announcing the committee, the Home Minister had said that he was in possession of “many complaints from political parties and leaders” about the misuse of phone tapping powers by the previous government. “This abuse of power violates the right to freedom and privacy as enshrined in the Constitution and is a national security threat,” he had said.

The proposal to set up the committee has not even been moved to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, and is stuck at the level of the Home Department, which has now reached out to the DGP, sources said. “There is immense pressure on the government from within the system to stall the setting up of the committee. If nine days have lapsed, it leaves very little time for the officials to complete a probe with such a vast scope. What is stopping the government from issuing merely a formal order on it?” asked a source.

Additional chief secretary (Home) Sanjay Kumar told The Hindu it is a procedural requirement to ask the DGP for an opinion, and once that is received, the file will be moved to the CM for his approval. “There is no question of a delay and we are waiting for the CM’s approval.” he said.

Mr. Deshmukh had said that phones of a number of senior opposition leaders’ were allegedly tapped in the run-up to the Assembly polls. The list included BJP leaders such as Ekanth Khadse, he had said.

“The official go-ahead for the probe has yet not been given. The prospect of probe as well as the possibility of linking it to the State bureaucrats’ visit to Israel has unsettled many. The CM is under pressure to not conduct the probe or to limit its scope. No decision has yet been made,” an official said.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 12:49:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/states/9-days-on-phone-tapping-probe-panel-yet-to-get-formal-approval/article30787243.ece

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