Under attack, including from within the UPA, for seeking to appoint a judge to lead the probe into the alleged snooping incident involving the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi days before the end of its term, the Centre Monday beat a retreat and deferred the decision.
It said it would wait until May 16, the day of the Lok Sabha poll results, leaving the decision to the next government.
The announcement came hours after a meeting between President Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. The minister, however, denied any link between the meeting and the decision.
It also came after UPA allies NCP and the National Conference opposed the government push at this late stage of its term.
Sources said the Centre’s turnaround came despite a former judge consenting in writing to head the commission. He, however, is learnt to have demanded a bungalow, staff, an official vehicle and office space, which were turned down by the home ministry. Eventually, Shinde, who was to select the judge, is learnt to have ruled in favour of postponing the appointment.
Shinde had been given a list of judges to pick, ministry sources said. However, he could not move on it as the judges who consented did not do so in writing. The one judge who gave his consent via e-mail made the demands the ministry rejected. Shinde, it is learnt, discussed the issue with his colleagues and decided to defer the move after having announced that a judge would be appointed before May 16.
Law Minister Kapil Sibal had backed the announcement, causing the BJP to slam the UPA.
The Union cabinet had in December approved the setting up of the commission after two news portals claimed that a young woman architect in Gujarat was the subject of illegal surveillance in 2009 and this was done at the behest of Modi and his aide Amit Shah.
The allegations were, however, refuted by the woman’s father who said in a written statement that the surveillance was conducted at his request and that the women was aware of it.
Former Apple executive and Dwarka MLA Adarsh Shastri has also been included in the spokespersons’ list.