Shimla: Boxed into a corner over the illegal phone tapping case, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal fended off questions from a pressing media with, “if found guilty, hang me.”
Speaking to reporters in the opposition lounge after the house was adjourned for the day, Dhumal said, “we had moved an adjournment motion seeking a threadbare debate on the phone tapping issue, but Speaker BBL Butail did not accept it.”
Demanding destruction of all the recorded conversations within 6 months as per the provisions of the India Telegraph Act, the former chief minister said that it was a peculiar case in which ministers and congress workers were divulging different figures and contradictory statements in the phone tapping case, something that the law forbids one from doing.
To hold an impartial inquiry, we demand that the phone tapping case be handed over to an sitting judge of the High Court and the case should not be probed by vigilance or any other agency, he said.
“If anyone has misused his official position and done something unlawful, he should be booked and tried in a court of law. Should I be held responsible for anything illegal in the case, I am ready to be hanged,” said Dhumal.
Virbhadra rules out CBI probe – Names to be disclosed before courts
Drubbing the illegal phone tapping as an in-house job, chief minister Virbhadra Singh said no details about the victims would be disclosed for it had the potential to compromise the investigations but legal action under law would be taken and names would become public when the matter is put before the courts.
Talking to reporters after a stormy start on the first day of the budget session, today, the chief minister said, “the phone tapping was done with the knowledge of former DGP, DS Manhas, his successor ID Bhandari and some other police officers.”
Quoting the Section 5 of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Virbhadra said that intercepting of communications between private individuals could be done only for specific purposes, which included emergencies, safety of the country and other such reasons.
He added that there was a high level committee, chaired by the chief secretary, which could authorize tapping of phones for a limited period, but there could be no reason to tap the phones of political opponents that the previous government had resorted to.
Besides the law provides for that all recordings made have to be destroyed within 6 months, he said.
Ruling out a CBI probe into the case, he said that investigation into the sensitive issue had been assigned to the state vigilance bureau.
When pressed for disclosing names of some of the victims whose phones were snooped upon, he retorted, “Not now! the names will be there when the case is presented before the courts.”
Reacting to the ruckus that the opposition created on the opening day in the house, Virbhadra said that BJP was on the defensive in the phone tapping case and was finding it hard to come to terms with loss of power. “They should learn to accept the people’s verdict in all humbleness,” he said.
About the incident of the room where he was staying as a central union minister, having been bugged at Himachal Bhawan, Chandigarh, the chief minister said that investigations had narrowed down.
Of other cases, which included the cottages built in a forested area at Bamloe in Shimla and tea estate land bought by noted lawyer Prashant Bhusan, the chief minister said that they would be taken to logical end one by one.