Accusing the Central government of conniving in what it termed a controversy engineered over the snooping on a woman, the Gujarat government told the Supreme Court Wednesday that not only the father of the woman in question but she herself was also aware that state agencies were tracking her and was “thankful” for it.
Gujarat’s BJP government of Chief Minister Narendra Modi told the apex court the contentious audio tapes aired by news portals Cobrapost and Gulail featuring the alleged illegal surveillance of the woman had come at a “strategically chosen time with an obvious and visible connivance of the home ministry of the Central government, with a view to pave way for an immediate malicious campaign”.
The affidavit by the state asserted that IAS officer Pradeep Sharma, who is also a strong critic of the Modi government, was seeking a CBI probe into the snooping controversy in the SC since the CBI functioned under the “direct control” of the MHA.
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Deeply disturbed by the malicious propaganda concerning her, the woman had herself approached the Gujarat State Women Commission and recorded her statement in December 2013, saying she had full knowledge of the steps taken by the state agencies at the request of her father, the affidavit said.
“The lady has remained thankful for the timely help rendered which, even according to her, was absolutely essential and required under the circumstances,” the affidavit said, adding her father and husband also recorded their statements, expressing their agony over the “undemocratic malicious campaign at the risk and cost of an innocent lady”.
Demanding dismissal of the plea by Sharma also on the ground of contempt by making personal allegations against Modi despite an undertaking to the court in the past, the affidavit countered the snooping allegations by bringing to fore some controversial facts regarding surveillance of Sharma’s phones in 2009.
It alleged that tapped mobile conversations of Sharma disclosed large-scale hawala transactions to the US in the name of his wife and benami purchase of properties, besides his illicit relationships with several married woman, which did not include the woman in the middle of the snooping controversy.
“So far as conversations of the applicant with several married women are concerned, they happen to be either subordinate officers or relatives/friends,” the government said and added that these were never disclosed by the state, seeking to indicate it never acted with malice against Sharma.
It claimed these conversations could not be put on record since they were extremely vulgar but the government wanted to apprise that investigations into the alleged financial irregularities were on even before Sharma moved the SC. The state government also questioned the absorption of Sharma’s elder brother Kuldeep Sharma, a Gujarat-cadre IPS officer, on central deputation at the fag end of his career despite not being eligible for it, and his post-retirement appointment as an advisor in the MHA.
Gujarat said these new facts were being brought to the notice of the court to show that not only the allegations were an afterthought and false but also that Sharma did not deserve any indulgence by the SC. Sharma had moved the SC demanding a CBI inquiry into the controversy following the airing of the tapes. Sharma, as well as the portals, had claimed that the surveillance was conducted by the Gujarat ATS in 2009 on the instructions of Amit Shah, a close aide of Modi, who was then minister of state for home.
The tapes were reportedly submitted by suspended IPS officer G L Singhal. Sharma has alleged that the state government had taken vindictive action against him because he was aware of the woman and the snooping incident. His main petition in the SC pertains to transferring the probe in four criminal cases against him from the Gujarat Police to an independent agency.