Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh on Monday equated the state's Crime Investigation Department (CID) under his predecessor, BJP's Prem Kumar Dhumal, with Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany used by Hitler to eliminate political opposition.
The strong comment comes after data seized from the office of the CID allegedly revealed that the department tapped telephones of several Congress leaders who were in the opposition from 2007 to 2012.
"All those who carried out the unauthorised interception of telephones will be held accountable," Virbhadra told HT. However, he added that he was waiting for a final forensic report about the CID's 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 officials from the department of home affairs and the police.
The computers are being examined by a three-member team at the state forensic laboratory in Junga. "Further action will be taken only after we get the report," the CM said, but insisted, "At the behest of the then government, the CID was acting like Gestapo."
Apart from Congress leaders, some BJP leaders hostile to Dhumal, bureaucrats and even journalists were snooped on by the CID, in alleged violation of the Indian Telegraph Act and the procedures laid down for tapping phones for crime-detection.
'Will expedite vigilance cases'
Virbhadra also laid stress on expediting cases registered by the vigilance bureau that have been pending for want of prosecution sanction.
The Congress has been demanding prosecution sanction against former health minister and senior BJP leader Dr Rajeev Bindal in a case of alleged irregular recruitment when he was president of the Solan municipal council. Investigations in the case, which dates back to the late 1990s, stand complete, but the prosecution sanction has not been granted. Though the Congress has said that the assembly speaker's sanction was not required as per rules, Virbhadra said about the case on Monday that he would seek the speaker's permission, "if it is needed".
He also reiterated that officials responsible for violations of land laws would face action. "We are examining whether the benami (proxy-ownership) land deals can be looked into by an existing agency, or if there is a need for a commission."