Oppn demands judicial probe, PM statement
Phone tapping issue
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.