Snoopgate: Panel set up to buy time?

Gandhinagar/New Delhi :  The Congress Opposition in Gujarat on Tuesday termed the inquiry commission instituted into the ‘snoopgate’ controversy by the Gujarat government as a Modi Bachao Commission (‘Save Modi panel’).

Snoopgate: Panel set up to buy time?

The two-member commission headed by retired High Court Judge Sugna Bhatt was announced late Monday evening.

Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modvadia said that the panel was a smokescreen to extricate the chief minister from the mess he has landed himself in and ‘’save his image.”

He further alleged that both the members of the commission have been beneficiaries of post retirement benefits from the current regime and hence would only do the bidding of the state government.

“Retired Justice Sugnya Bhatt was earlier heading a commission which probed the mismanagement of resources leading to Surat floods in 2006 and she had given a clean chit to the state government,” Modvadia said. “How can one expect the outcome to be any different this time?”

In the national capital a Congress spokesperson described the belated move to institute an inquiry as eyewash and an attempt to deflect the allegations. ‘’Modi is the prime accused in this case, and the matter should be inquired by a Supreme Court judge,” said party spokesperson P C Chacko.

‘’The appointment of the committee makes it clear that he is on the defensive and is feeling the heat. He (Modi) has given the committee a three-month time frame to complete its probe, which gives him a breather till the elections are over.’’

Chacko further claimed that the charges were serious as 93,000 phones had been tapped within a period of seven months.

Modi has been in the centre of controversy ever since a website put out details of telephonic conversations between IPS officer G L Singhal and the former minister Amit Shah that give graphic details of the surveillance of a woman architect by the anti-terrorism squad. A senior IAS officer Pradeep Sharma has leveled the same allegations in a petition pending before the Supreme Court.

On Monday, a group of women activists had met President Pranab Mukherjee to demand an inquiry by a Supreme Court judge.

‘’Normally, Modi is quite a loud mouth and he speaks on every issue. But why is he keeping quiet on this matter? Why is Amit Shah keeping quiet? Is their silence some kind of acceptance of guilt,” observed Chacko.

‘’For us there is no difference between Narendra Modi and Tarun Tejpal. Both are guilty of violating the dignity of a woman,” noted Chacko, when asked as to why the Congress was going soft on the Tehelka editor who is facing charges of sexual harassment of a woman journalist.

The Congress ire is also directed at the terms of reference of the panel, which has been directed to look into “the authenticity and veracity of the said tapes”

Interestingly, the terms of reference of the commission also mandate it to probe “whether circumstances leading to the release of the audio tapes after a long gap of four years reveal any conspiracy.”

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