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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Probe, not snooping, breached privacy, says Gujarat HC

The state government, on its part, defended its decision of setting up the probe panel in November 2013.

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad |
October 14, 2014 5:35:22 am

The Gujarat High Court, which scrapped the Justice Sugnya Bhatt Commission probing the alleged snooping on a woman architect, said in its order that it was not the alleged illegal surveillance in 2009 that had breached the privacy of the woman, but the formation of the inquiry commission.

The panel was set up by the then Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government to probe the alleged snooping, exposed through taped phone conversations published by two Delhi-based news websites. The telephone talk was said to be between Gujarat’s then home minister Amit Shah and IPS officer G L Singhal on purported stalking of the woman for a “saheb”.

The bench of Justice Paresh Upadhyay said in its order on Friday: “…What is alleged against the state authorities had not resulted in intrusion in her privacy, but now what is sought to be done, certainly has resulted into intrusion in her privacy and has thereby resulted in violation of her fundamental right. It is this situation…petitioners need to be protected by this court.”

The state government, on its part, defended its decision of setting up the probe panel in November 2013 and told the court that the decision was in accordance with the law. However, additional advocate general Prakash Jani, representing the state, told the court that if the judge was inclined to accept this petition, the state does not have any objection.

In its order, the court further said: “The irony is that, under the pretext that the alleged encroachment of privacy of petitioner No.2 needs to be inquired into, that too irrespective of her say, her privacy has stood intruded.” Petitioner No. 2 in this has been identified as “MP Soni”, the said woman architect.

The court has said the “notification (for setting up the probe panel) was unwarranted and is unsustainable in law, and therefore the same be quashed and set aside”.

The order has taken into consideration the year in which the alleged surveillance took place and the “surreptitious popping up of tapes somewhere in November 2013 is not seen to be a mere coincidence by the petitioners”. The court has, however, refrained itself from going into the detail of “vested interests of certain political sections” as alleged by the petitioners.

The order said, “…In the interregnum she has got married… living at her matrimonial house happily…and further, not only she did not have any grievance at the relevant time…she had already settled in her life by this time.”

“…The concerned lady herself was also screaming with whatever feeble voice she had, that she does not want these things to be gone into. It is not that her dissent has escaped notice. It is on record that her say, conveying her No, was already there before various authorities, but for reasons which are not required to be gone into by this court, the same was completely overlooked by the concerned a authorities at the relevant time.”

Justice Upadhyay observed: “This court also finds that, in the commotion created by shouts from various quarters, including the so-called custodians of the dignity of petitioner No.2, the feeble voice of the petitioner herself went into the background and it is the duty of this court to listen to that very voice.”

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