Nearly two months after its announcement, the government has failed to name a retired judge who will head a judicial commission to probe into the snooping scandal allegedly involving Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Official sources said a panel of three retired judges have been selected, but so far no announcement has been made by the government, raising speculation that they too might have turned down the offer. Earlier a few judges, including a retired Chief Justice of a High Court, were approached by the government to take up the assignment, but all of them are said to have turned down the offer describing the case as “highly political”.
As the Lok Sabha election is approaching and Modi is BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, the sources said, the government is facing difficulty in finding a judge who would be willing to head the judicial commission of inquiry into the charges. Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has, however, denied that no judge is willing to head the inquiry but admitted “some problems” in announcing the name of the retired judge.
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On January 10, Shinde had said that a judge to head the judicial commission would be announced “within a day or two”. But more than a month after the Home Minister’s statement, no announcement has been made regarding the name of the judge.
On December 26, 2013, the Central government had declared appointment of a Commission of Inquiry into the “snooping” on a woman in Gujarat allegedly at the behest of Modi. The commission, to be headed by a retired judge of Supreme Court or retired Chief Justice of a High Court, is supposed to submit its report within three months.
The Union Cabinet has decided to constitute the inquiry into the incidents of physical or electronic surveillance in the states of Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi allegedly without authorisation, the announcement had said. The Commission will also look into charges of snooping on Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh by the then BJP government when he was in the opposition as well as the leaking of the call data records of BJP leader Arun Jaitley.
The Centre’s decision overruled the contention of the Gujarat government that the matter was a state subject and that it has already appointed a Commission to probe it. The Union Cabinet’s decision came against the backdrop of claims that the alleged snooping was conducted beyond the state of Gujarat. The controversy broke out about four months ago when two news portals released CDs of purported telephonic conversations between Modi aide and the then Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah and two top state police officials relating to snooping on a woman in 2009.
The conversations, purportedly between August and September 2009, do not specifically mention Modi by name, but refers to a “saheb”, which the portals claimed was the Gujarat Chief Minister at whose instance the snooping was done.