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HindustanTimes Tue,02 Sep 2014

Snooping row: Gujarat govt sets up probe panel

Mahesh Langa and Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times  Ahmedabad/New Delhi, November 25, 2013
First Published: 23:35 IST(25/11/2013) | Last Updated: 01:51 IST(26/11/2013)

The Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government on Monday appointed a two-member commission to probe into the allegations of snooping on a young woman, even as the Congress women’s wing requested President Pranab Mukherjee to order a judicial inquiry into the controversy.

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“The government has constituted a two-member panel to be headed by Justice (Rtd) Sugna Bhatt. Retired IAS officer KC Kapoor is the other member... The commission will submit its report within three months,” Gujarat government spokesperson Nitin Patel said.

Two investigative news websites have made public tapes in which Modi’s aide Amit Shah is purportedly heard directing the police to put a young woman and a senior IAS officer under surveillance in 2009. Shah was then Gujarat’s minister of state for home.

The Congress upped the ante against Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial nominee, after the controversy surfaced in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

On Monday, Congress women’s cell members met the President in Delhi as part of a 44-member delegation led by social activist Shabnam Hashmi to seek a judicial probe into the case.

“We have sought the President’s intervention in the matter. A sitting judge of the Supreme Court or a high court... must probe this issue,” Hashmi said.

The delegation also comprised actor Nafisa Ali and planning panel member Sayeda Hamid, among others.

The President does not have the power to initiate a judicial probe, but can forward the petition to the state and the central government, a constitutional expert said.

The President's office, however, refused to speak on the minutes of the meeting.

“The way Congress took up the issue, it became almost inevitable (for the Modi government) to set up some mechanism to probe the matter,” a senior Gujarat government official said.

A section of Gujarat secretariat officials feels the inquiry panel has been set up to pre-empt any probe or inquiry the SC may order as demanded by suspended IAS officer Pradeep Sharma, who has alleged that the woman had close relations with Gujarat chief minister Modi.

Panel head Justice Bhatt is a chairperson of the state OBC commission and is considered close to the ruling party. Kapoor, the other member, was additional chief secretary (home) and after retirement was appointed as the chairman of state election commission, a panel which conducts local body polls in the state.


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