Oppn de­mands ju­di­cial probe, PM state­ment

Phone tap­ping is­sue

The Political and Business Daily - - NATION -

THE Op­po­si­tion led by the Congress to­day upped the ante against the Govern­ment on the bug­ging is­sue de­mand­ing a ju­di­cial probe and a state­ment by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi on the mat­ter which, they said, has put the NDA's cred­i­bil­ity at stake.

There were sharp ex­changes in the Ra­jya Sabha be­tween the op­po­si­tion mem­bers and the trea­sury benches over the is­sue, with the op­po­si­tion adamant on a de­bate say­ing it is a breach of priv­i­lege over which the govern­ment can even be dis­missed.

"When Min­is­ters', MPs' phones are tapped, se­crecy is breached. Peo­ple's faith in the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters has been shaken. To help re­store that faith, con­sti­tute a ju­di­cial com­mit­tee to probe the mat­ter," Pramod Ti­wari (Congress) said, rais­ing a point of order.

Par­lia­men­tary Af­fairs Min­is­ter Venakaih Naidu, how­ever, dis­missed the de­mand say­ing, "I have to set the record straight. There is no need of an in­quiry with­out any sub­stan­tive rea­son."

Deputy Chair­man PJ Kurien had a tough time in main­tain­ing order in the House, as mem­bers kept rais­ing points of order with the pur­pose of press­ing for a dis­cus­sion.

The Up­per House saw three ad­journ­ments - two in the Ques­tion Hour and another in the Zero Hour - and no busi­ness could be taken up dur­ing the pre­lunch sit­ting for the sec­ond day in suc­ces­sion ex­cept lay­ing of pa­pers.

The Chair ruled that there was no point of order as Home Min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh has al­ready stated that there is no truth in the al­le­ga­tions of bug­ging.

"As far as the Chair is con­cerned, avail­able ma­te­rial is only the state­ment of the Home Min­is­ter. I am un­able to find any sub­stan­tial ma­te­rial to prove that (bug­ging). There­fore, I can­not al­low the ques­tion of priv­i­lege. The Chair can­not go by news­pa­per re­ports. It has to go by facts," Kurien said while re­fus­ing a point of order raised by Op­po­si­tion mem­bers.

With­out nam­ing the Prime Min­is­ter, Ti­wari al­leged that "some peo­ple have the his­tory of tap­ping phones of min­is­ters in states", while KC Tyagi (JDU) said his­tory is wit­ness to fall of gov­ern­ments in the US and In­dia on such is­sues.

Link­ing the is­sue with the priv­i­lege of mem­bers, the Op­po­si­tion said the Govern­ment can be dis­missed over the mat­ter and cited the ex­am­ples of res­ig­na­tions of US Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon and In­dia's Prime Min­is­ter Chan­drashekhar, who had to quit af­ter phone tap­ping al­le­ga­tions.

Quot­ing a re­port, P Ra­jeev (CPI-M) said the al­leged re­cov­ery of high­pow­ered lis­ten­ing equip­ment was part of the US sur­veil­lance pro­gramme on In­dian lead­ers.

Rais­ing the is­sue of then Leader of Op­po­si­tion Arun Jait­ley, whose phone call records were ac­cessed unau­tho­ris­edly dur­ing the UPA regime, Naresh Agrawal (SP) said that time too the Govern­ment had de­nied it.

"But sub­se­quently, it was proved that his phone was tapped and some peo­ple were also ar­rested by Delhi Po­lice. There was a dis­cus­sion on the is­sue then," he said, ques­tion­ing, "Why not now?"

Agrawal raised the is­sue of mem­bers' rights, which he al­leged have been vi­o­lated and re­minded the Chair that it was "your duty to pro­vide pro­tec­tion to us".

Sup­port­ing him, Tyagi said, "It is not small is­sue. US Pres­i­dent Nixon and In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Chan­drashekhar had re­signed on this is­sue (of phone tap­ping)."

Satyavrat Chaturvedi (Cong) stressed that de­bate should take place as they had al­ready given no­tices.

"It is a vi­o­la­tion of mem­bers priv­i­lege...that is why we want dis­cus­sion. The is­sue is so se­ri­ous that the Ggov­ern­ment can be sacked. If there was no tap­ping why are you shy­ing away from dis­cus­sion," asked Ash­wani Ku­mar (Congress).

This was coun­tered by Mukhtar Ab­bas Naqvi (BJP) who termed the al­le­ga­tions as "un­founded" and "un­called for" when the House had many im­por­tant is­sues to dis­cuss like flood and loss of lives in Pune due to land­slide.

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