To hit out at the BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi and his close aide Amit Shah, the UPA government has revived its plan to set up a judicial commission to inquire into the allegations of illegal spying on a woman in Gujarat.
Law minister Kapil Sibal told the media in Ahmedabad on Monday that the UPA would appoint a judge soon to probe the Snoopgate scandal. He said, “The judge heading the commission will be appointed before the result day on May 16.”
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The government in December 2013 announced that a commission would be set up to look into the alleged illegal surveillance by the Gujarat police at the behest of Shah.
The reported conversations of Shah, released by two websites — Cobrapost and Gulail , showed the surveillance was being done on the instructions of a ‘Saheb’. It also alleged that ‘Saheb’ was said to be Modi himself.
For the next four months, the government could not find a retired judge of the Supreme Court judge or a high court chief justice to head the commission as they were apprehensive of heading a politically surcharged inquiry, government officials hinted.
The BJP earlier accused the government of a witch-hunt for its decision to set up the commission, but the government claimed that it was not specifically targeting the Modi-led Gujarat government, as it added cases of illegal procurement of call details of BJP leader Arun Jaitley and the alleged snooping of Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh in the mandate of the commission.
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“The government is planning to change the terms of reference of the commission, enabling it to be headed by a sitting high court judge. Once it is done, it will approach a chief justice of a high court to head the panel,” a source said.
Government sources say there was no need to seek the Election Commission’s approval as the decision to appoint the panel was taken before the elections were announced.
Meanwhile, the Gujarat government – to checkmate the Centre’s inquiry – announced a two-member inquiry commission, headed by a former Gujarat high court judge, Justice Sugnya Bhatt, to look into the allegations.
The commission is conducting the probe according to the terms of reference given by the Modi administration.