Congress seeks SC probe into Modi govt’s role in snooping row

ModiTwo investigative portals had revealed that Amit Shah, Narendra Modi's close aide, had ordered illegal surveillance of a woman at the behest of one "saheb".
Stepping up its attack against Narendra Modi, the Congress on Sunday said he had lost the "moral right" to be the BJP's prime ministerial candidate and demanded an inquiry headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court to probe the Gujarat government's alleged illegal surveillance on a woman in 2009.

The party fielded its senior women leaders, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan, Housing Minister Girija Vyas, former UP Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Mahila Congress chief Shobha Oza, to target the Modi government for "stalking" and "disregard for individual privacy guaranteed by the Constitution".

Addressing a press conference, Natarajan said, "We are filled with grim discomfort, disquiet and worry over the violation of an individual's privacy... We want to know why a state's anti-terrorism apparatus was involved in illegally stalking an individual. This is a serious offence under Section 26 of the Indian Telegraph Act read with Section 120-B as also Section 166 of the Indian Penal Code."

"If government machinery is misused...Modi has no moral and political right to govern Gujarat...He does not deserve to be the PM candidate of BJP," said Joshi.

Questioning the "misuse" of public money and government machinery for this surveillance operation, the party asked why the woman was "stalked" beyond the boundaries of Gujarat, without the knowledge of the authorities in other states.

"Does this illegal snooping not raise moral and ethical issues as to the capability, mannerism and style of governance of Modi? Can a person with such a flagrant disregard for law, Constitution and liberty of people be trusted to run any public responsibility and protect the rights of citizens," they asked.

Two news portals, Cobrapost and Gulail, had claimed on Friday that former Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah had ordered illegal surveillance of a woman at the behest of one "Saheb". An alleged taped conversation between Shah and Gujarat IPS officer G L Singhal was aired, in which Shah purportedly instructed Singhal to closely monitor the movements of the woman.

"Singhal has told the CBI that the surveillance was illegal and was carried out only on the oral instructions of Shah. The recordings reveal that Madhuri was tailed even as she visited shopping malls, restaurants, ice-cream parlours, gyms, cinema halls, hotels and airports," said a statement issued by the two news portals.

"BJP president Rajnath Singh has said that the woman's father had requested Modi to take care of her. It is clear from this statement that the so- called saheb was Modi and that it was entirely done at his behest," said Vyas.

Natarajan said the woman's father, who lives in Gujarat, "was probably intimidated" into issuing a statement saying he had requested the state government to place his daughter under surveillance. "Does an oral, undated request by a parent condone the crime of illegal surveillance of an adult citizen of India?" asked the Congress.

The party leaders claimed they had been receiving calls from women "from across the country" expressing worry and horror about this invasion of privacy.

"When BJP leader Arun Jaitley's call details were leaked, the BJP did not allow parliament to function for three days, criminal charges were filed and arrests were made. But now the BJP is silent on the infringement on a woman's privacy," said Natarajan.

Meanwhile, the BJP accused the Congress of bringing a private matter into the public domain for political gain. "Neither the woman nor her family has said anything about any probe. The Congress does not have any locus standi to demand a probe. The surveillance was done legally with due approval," said BJP spokeswoman Meenakshi Lekhi. "This is an attempt at character assassination."

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