“I wish to state categorically that no telephone tapping or eavesdropping on political leaders was authorised by the previous UPA government. Nor has the present UPA government authorised any such activity,” Home Minister P Chidambaram said in Lok Sabha on Monday.
He said the report in the news magazine on phone tapping was thoroughly enquired into and “nothing has been found in the records of the NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation) to substantiate the allegations.”
While Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha adjourned till 1200 noon soon after assembling for the day following opposition uproar on the issue, the Upper House was again adjourned till 1230 hours and the Lower House till 1400 hours on the issue.
“Further enquiries are being made into the allegations in the magazine. If any evidence is forthcoming or discovered, the matter will be thoroughly investigated by the appropriate agencies,” the Home Minister said.
The news weekly has alleged in an article that the phones of Union Minister Sharad Pawar, Congress leader Digvijay Singh, CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had been tapped.
In the Rajya Sabha, opposition BJP vehemently demanded setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee, with senior leader M Venkaiah Naidu demanding that the Prime Minister should make a statement on the matter.
When Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan said the Home Minister could make a statement on the issue, Naidu said, “It is a very serious issue. The phones of not only cabinet ministers, but Chief Ministers and political leaders are being tapped.”
The House was adjourned amid unabated slogan—shouting to demand setting up of JPC.
In the Lok Sabha, the Home Minister, who made the statement when the opposition members stormed the well raising slogans on the issue as also on the IPL controversy, said at the outset that government has seen the allegations against the NTRO.
“It is a technical organisation of the government….The organisation was notified on April 15, 2004,” he said.
Asserting that intelligence agencies functioned within the law, he said they are “fully accountable” to the government.
Under the Telegraph Act and the IT Act, each case of monitoring of telephones or electronic communications has to be approved by the Union Home Secretary personally and is subject to review by an oversight committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.
“Such monitoring, as may be necessary to fight crime, for national security or for counter—terrorism effort, is subject to multiple checks and oversight,” Chidambaram said.
Earlier in response to a demand by senior BJP leader L K Advani that the Prime Minister should make a statement on the matter, Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee said the Prime Minister was ready to make a statement at 1530 hours.
This was because he was having a luncheon meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
“If you agree, the Home Minister can make a statement right now and the issue will be clarified,” Mukherjee said.
In the melee, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav stormed the well demanding a JPC into the IPL episode.
Soon after the House assembled, the Question Hour was stalled in both Houses with the opposition protesting the alleged tapping of phones by the government and wanted immediate clarification.
Advani also demanded that a law should be passed to prevent the government from tapping phones.