Senior ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and Kapil Sibal Friday said a judicial panel to probe Snoopgate would be in place before May 16 — the counting day — provoking BJP’s Arun Jaitley to warn that the new government would be within its rights to revisit the “malafide decision”.
HT was the first to report, on April 29, the renewed efforts at the home ministry to appoint a judge to head the panel in the backdrop of Congress leaders sharpening attacks against the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi for allegedly getting police to stalk a young woman.
“The Centre has no right to form a commission in the middle of an election,” Jaitley said, calling the government’s hurry as an “admission of defeat”.
“I’m worried that if a chief minister can put a woman under surveillance, what will happen to the women in the country if he becomes the prime minister,” home minister Shinde told reporters in Shimla.
The cabinet had in December decided to set up an inquiry panel but has not been able to find a judge willing to take up the job.
Law minister Sibal brushed aside BJP’s barbs about UPA’s inability to pick a judge, confident that the appointment would be made before May 16.
Home ministry sources, however, indicated that the government was still struggling to identify the judge. The latest list had six names, two of them serving judges, officials said. One of them, a sitting judge, on who they had rested their hopes, had already turned down the offer, a source indicated. The ministry was again exploring the option of naming a retired judge, the source said. “Let us see,” he said.
“There is documentary evidence of what he has done; how he has snooped on the activities of a young girl,” Sibal said, adding the BJP was already hinting at the possibility of overturning the decision on Snoopgate.
“How is it legally tenable to take a fresh decision,” Jaitley wrote in his blog. Almost certain that it won’t return to power, the UPA had made three unsuccessful efforts in recent days, the BJP leader wrote.
“Firstly, they tried to appoint two new information commissioners; secondly, they tried to fill up the quorum of the search committee for appointment of the lokpal, and thirdly they are trying desperately to get at least one judge to agree to head the ‘Snoopgate’ commission. I doubt very much if any of these moves is likely to succeed,” he blogged. “Even if it did, a future government would be well within its legitimate rights to review such a malafide last-minute decision of the UPA.”
The lawyer-politician also pointed out that for five months “judge after judge” had refused to be part of such a motivated exercise and now the government was making fresh efforts.
“This is admission of defeat,” Jaitley said.