Updated: October 11, 2014 4:19:09 am
The two-member Sugnya Bhatt Commission was appointed by the Gujarat government, then headed by Narendra Modi as Chief Minister, on November 26, 2013. At that time, the Commission was given three months to complete its probe and submit its report.
Though, subsequently it kept getting extensions from the Gujarat government. Its latest extension would end on October 31.
The Gujarat High Court’s directive to wrap it up comes ahead of the summons the commission had recently issued to A K Sharma, Joint Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch, to file his reply in the matter by October 14.
The two-member Commission, headed by former judge of Gujarat High Court, Sugnya Bhatt, had Gujarat government’s former Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K C Kapoor as the other member. Bhatt, who was appointed as the chairperson of the commission, is also heading the Commission for Other Backward Class.
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The Commission was appointed after a huge controversy triggered by two investigative portals, gulail.com and cobrapost.com, that revealed certain tapes related to the alleged snooping of a woman architect by Gujarat police at the behest of the then minister of state for home Amit Shah, who is now the national president of the BJP.
In the audio tapes, Shah is heard instructing IPS officer, G L Singhal, to stalk and tape phones of the architect, at the behest of one “saheb”. In the same set of audio tapes, some other top police officers of Gujarat cadre are also heard playing their part in the alleged scandal.
The taped conversations put out by the news portals reveal that the officials of Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch, Gujarat ATS and state intelligence were tracking every movement of the woman architect from her residence to restaurants, hotels, cinema theatres and airports.
The Terms of Reference (ToR) of the Commission’s probe were:
# Authenticity and veracity of the said tapes;
# Whether the incident(s) of security/surveillance as alleged in the Web portals and subsequently published/telecast in various news media actually took place
# The facts, circumstances, reasons and causes that led to the alleged security/surveillance, if any, and/or steps taken by the government agencies
# Whether there was any breach of or non-compliance with any laid down mandatory legal provisions and/or administrative procedures in the process
# Whether the circumstances leading to the release of the audio tapes after a long gap of four years reveal any conspiracy
# What shall be the objective considerations while arranging discreet security to a woman if the circumstances so warrant.
Ever since its formation, the Commission worked in secrecy and media was not allowed any access to the Commission. There is no official statement from the Commission on the probe done by it with reference to the ToR.
However, it has become known that the Commission did summon the proprietors of the two Web portals and IPS officer, G L Singhal.
While Singhal reportedly did not file any affidavit before the Commission, Ashish Khaitan of gulail.com did send an affidavit in which he challenged the jurisdiction of the Commission.
HC grants a month to petitioner for additional affidavit
The division bench of Gujarat High Court granted a month’s time to the petitioner who has challenged the legality of setting up Sugnya Bhatt Commission to inquire into the alleged snooping controversy featuring a woman architect and state functionaries.
The petitioner told the court that he wants to file an additional affidavit in the case for which he needed time. The court allowed the requested on the condition that it was the last opportunity for the petitioner.
In December last year, advocate Girish Das filed a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the legality of the commission. Through the PIL, Das has questioned the formation of the commission to probe just one case of alleged illegal phone surveillance (snooping controversy) when there are reportedly 93,000 cases of phone-tapping which need to be investigated.
Das has sought CBI inquiry into the alleged phone-tappings. He said that earlier his petition was based on newspaper reports which quoted the alleged number of tapping, but he now claims that he has got hold of a letter that confirms the number reportedly written by Surat Police Commissioner to the state home department. “This letter contains the authentic information, revealing that fact that between February 2012 and June 2012, a total of 93,000 phones were tapped. I am going to submit this letter as a proof to strengthen my case,” Das said. (ENS)
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