The Opposition parties pushed the government on the backfoot in the Rajya Sabha with an all-out attack on the alleged phone-tapping of four politicians and on Telecom Minister A Raja.
Led by Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, the opposition MPs charged the government with "political espionage" in a heated debate marked by angry exchanges between rival parties.
Jaitley said the government statements were merely "limited denials" which were "economical" with the truth.
"The government did not say that no tapping had taken place. It only gave a careful denial that it had not authorised the telephone tapping. The subtext was clear that the equipment available with the government taps phones even without authorisation," he said.
"It is only in the interest of public emergency or public safety that the government was vested with powers to tap telephones. There is no absolute powers with the government."
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the government response on the allegations has been inadequate.
"The promptness shown in tapping of telephones should also be shown in ordering a probe. Let there be a review committee," he said.
He said the two media reports on phone tapping show that on one hand there is unauthorised tapping and on the other there is authorised tapping.
"While authorised tapping is not used to clean the system, unauthorised tapping is used for political gains," he said.
At the end of the debate, Jaitley and Home Minister P Chidambaram had a go at each other on whether tax evasion is a ground for intercepting phones. Both didn’t yield and finally the minister rejected the demand.