Vigilance to probe phone tapping, says Virbhadra

Shimla: Less than a day after the completion of a probe into the alleged phone tapping during the previous BJP regime in Himachal Pradesh, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh Saturday said that the investigation would be handed over to the state vigilance and anti-corruption bureau.
Virbhadra with media
“The government is going to hand over the probe to the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau,” the chief minister told reporters here.

“Strict action would be initiated against those officials who were involved in this act,” he added.

The second and final report into the illegal phone tapping, allegedly at the behest of the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led government, Friday said 350 telephone calls were tapped in six months, ahead of the assembly elections.

The total number of phones tapped, mainly of Congress leaders, government functionaries and journalists in violation of the Indian Telegraph Act, was over 1,100, said officials.

The reports, prepared by the state forensic science laboratory, were on the basis of data retrieved from seized computer hard disks of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and vigilance bureau.

Chief secretary Sudipto Roy told reporters that the reports comprised conversations recorded during different periods.

Last month, the forensic lab revealed that CID officials had put 789 telephones under surveillance.

Official sources said out of 789 phones, permission was granted by the home department only in 34 cases.

Sources said that according to the first report, most of the conversations were of Congress leaders when they were in the opposition, while the second report was on tapping conversations of government officials only.

The conversations of some BJP dissidents and journalists also figured.

Director General of Police I.D. Bhandari, who was heading the CID when the illegal phone tapping took place, was removed immediately after the first report.

“The privacy of certain political leaders was infringed upon. The number of phones tapped clearly indicated the malafide intention of the then government,” Singh said.

Clarifying his position, Dhumal said permission for tapping the phones was given by the home department and the chief minister’s office had nothing to do with it.

The computers in the CID and vigilance bureau offices were seized on the night of December 24-25 last year, hours before Singh assumed charge as chief minister.


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