Maharashtra govt orders probe in phone snoping case

The Asian Age.  | Sonu Shrivastava

Metros, Mumbai

State housing minister Dr Jitendra Awhad said that he had already raised the issue of phone tapping on the floor of the house.

Former Maharashtra Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis

Mumbai: The issue of the alleged phone tapping of political leaders before the Assembly elections has intensified in Maharashtra, with the state government ordering a probe into it.

State housing minister Dr Jitendra Awhad said that he had already raised the issue of phone tapping on the floor of the house.

However, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said that phone tapping was not the culture of the state, and his government had not given any such orders.

“The entire country knows the credibility of that person in politics who has made the complaint about it,” said Mr Fadnavis, who is the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly. However, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government is free to conduct an inquiry into the phone tapping charges against the previous Bharatiya Janata Party-led dispensation, he said.

During the Assembly election, the then BJP government supposedly instructed tapping of phone calls of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut among other top leaders, who played a key role in the formation of the MVA government. Home minister Anil Deshmukh Thursday ordered a probe into it.

Mr Fadnavis said, “The state government is free to conduct an enquiry through any machinery. The people of Maharashtra know the truth. A Shiv Sena leader was the minister of state for home during our regime. I would request to immediately conduct a probe and keep the report before the people. Even if they want to go to Israel to conduct the enquiry, they can do so.”

Meanwhile, former state minister for home and Sena leader Deepak Kesarkar said that being a state minister, he had limited power. The phone tap was carried out when there was no threat to the nation. This was a process. The government could not tap other people’s phones without taking prior permission.

On Friday, Mr Deshmukh said that the phones of senior leaders of the Congress and NCP had been tapped before the Assembly election. The previous BJP-led government had tried to know whom they were speaking to. Allegations were being made about some government officials having been sent to Israel on government expenses. They even bought Israeli firm software on government money. The BJP had tried to take political advantage by accessing the conversation. “We are probing the matter,” he said.

Mr Awhad said, “I had raised the issue of phone tapping and phone snooping. Tapping is more dangerous than snooping. Today, my allegations are proving true.”

“Why does someone want to peek into people’s private lives? Who has given them such rights? Why did you tap the phone?” Mr Awhad asked. The phone tapping is a psychological disorder; he added that he knew that some of the officials had gone to Israel. However, he would not take anyone’s name.

He also claimed that an off-line interceptor had been bought. Why had it been brought, he asked.

The NCP leader said that Facebook had sent letters to people stating that their phones had been tapped. If anyone wanted to know whether their phones were being tapped, he would give the names.