Centre washes hands of snoopgate

New Delhi :  The Centre on Friday told the Supreme Court that it was not setting up any judicial commission to probe “Snoopgate” as decided by the Union cabinet in December.

It is claimed that the Gujarat police had put a woman architect under surveillance in 2009, allegedly at the behest of the state home minister Amit Shah, who is known for his proximity to prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi.  A web portal broke the story, which came to be referred to as Snoopgate in media and political circles.

The BJP hit back at the UPA government accusing it of engaging in “political vendetta” since a government whose term is about to expire can’t make important appointments. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley even asserted that the new government will review any such commission appointed by the government in its dying days.

The woman and her father Pranlal N Soni had rushed to the Apex Court on Tuesday with an urgent petition to seek a stay on the appointment of the commission.  They were constrained to move the court in the wake of threats by Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal that a judge would be named before May 16 to head the commission. This was seen by the BJP as a covert move to settle political scores with Modi before the results of the Lok Sabha elections were out.

Since the woman and her father had also pleaded for a stay on another inquiry commission, already set up by the Gujarat government on November 26, the Bench directed them to approach the Gujarat High Court for relief.

Modi had set up this commission headed by a retired High Court judge only to block a Central commission probe into the issue. This committee has not held any hearing even though its terms of reference required a report within three months that are already over.

The father of the architect woman has been claiming that he had personally urged Modi to order the surveillance for his daughter’s protection. The woman, too, has told the court that she was “thankful” that the Gujarat police had provided her with protective surveillance.

The two allies in the government – the NCP and the National Conference – too had opposed constitution of the commission. President Pranab Mukherjee is also reported to have summoned Home Minister Shinde and advised him to desist from notifying the Commission after more than four months of the Cabinet decision.

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