The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime led by Prem Kumar Dhumal lost power at the end of last year, but 2013 may pull the skeletons out of its cabinet. As the new Congress government, led by Dhumal's sworn political enemy Virbhadra Singh, examines seized computer data of the state Crime Investigation Department (CID), it has come to light that the Dhumal regime eavesdropped on telephone conversations of leaders from the then opposition Congress and even some BJP leaders hostile to Dhumal.
Though the findings of the investigation are being kept under wraps, sources have told HT that the CID sleuths intercepted calls from bureaucrats and even some journalists, all in violation of the Indian Telegraph Act.
There are conversations of Congress leaders close to Virbhadra; but forensic experts from the lab in Junga are trying to find out whether the disk contained conversations of Virbhadra himself, as some of the data seems to have been deleted.
Virbhadra has been alleging that Dhumal spied on him by using the state machinery. So the computers and disk had been seized on December 25 night -- hours after Virbhadra took oath as chief minister for the sixth time - in a joint raid by the officials from the department of home affairs and the police. Following seizure of telephone-interception devices, and reports that an officer in the CID was attempting to delete the data, the new government had immediately replaced RM Sharma as the CID deputy inspector general (DIG) with Abhishek Trivedi.
A three-member forensic team headed by Visheshwar Sharma, assistant director, State Forensic Science Laboratory, Junga, was constituted on the orders of chief secretary Sudripta Roy. It has purportedly found that apart from Congress bigwigs, the tapping covered BJP leaders who were planning a revolt against Dhumal.
Some of these dissidents later formed the Himachal Lokhit Morcha that won one seat in the assembly polls.
Computers from the office of the vigilance bureau were also seized, but so far there is no evidence that telephones were intercepted by the VB for purposes other than crime detection, sources said.
"The three-member forensic team, with assistance from cyber experts, will compile an interim report soon," said chief secretary Roy. If need be, the disk may even be sent to a central lab outside the state for further examination.