A day after the emergence of an AAP proposal to buy high-end spying equipment worth Rs 3.2 crore, the Delhi government denied on Saturday any plans to acquire surveillance devices for the Anti-Corruption Branch amid continuing protests by the BJP and Congress.
The BJP gathered a 1,000-strong crowd and marched to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s house and burnt his effigy, demanding an explanation from the Aam Aadmi Party chief. To stop the protesters, the police resorted to water cannons, allegedly injuring former east Delhi mayor Ram Narain Dubey.
The note – accessed by HT on Friday – said the Kejriwal cabinet was planning to procure the equipment for “research, analysis, surveillance and monitoring purposes” and was approved by the minister in-charge, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia.
“The BJP will never allow such autocratic moves of Kejriwal’s government to succeed. We demand an independent inquiry into the motives behind this snoopgate decision. We fear some foreign NGO brain might be working behind the initiative,” city BJP chief Satish Upadhyay said.
Other party leaders questioned how a cash-strapped government had managed to allocate Rs 36 crore to the ACB while public safety initiatives such as installation of CCTVs were stalled due to lack of funds.
Read | BJP, Congress harden positions on surveillance issue in Delhi
The Congress too accused the Kejriwal government of staging gimmicks and circulated the 16-page cabinet note, demanding an explanation from the government.
“I want to know from Kejriwal the exact intent of the note for buying high-end snooping equipment, which can be misused by authorities and departments without following proper procedures for snooping on political opponents,” said Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken.
But the AAP continued to deny the existence of any cabinet note and said terms like snooping were “fictitious creations of vested interests” to defame Kejriwal’s pet anti-graft agency. “I don’t even know the meaning of the word snooping. If we have to strengthen the ACB then it will need things like car, computers, stationary and other things,” health minister Satyendra Jain said.
The Centre stayed at an arm’s length from the controversy with minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju refusing to comment on the issue. “If any proposal comes to us, we will deal with it under the prescribed law,” he said.
Read | Anti-graft body says plan to buy only ‘legal’ equipment
The AAP’s claim that no such note existed was also somewhat punctured by ACB officers, who insisted the plan was to buy legal equipment used by other police agencies. “The CDR analysing software will help us trace links of the phone numbers. This is very different from snooping or tapping,” said an ACB official on condition of anonymity.