The UPA government is confident that the proposed commission to inquire into Snoopgate would withstand judicial scrutiny, though government officials concede that the possibility of it indicting Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is "extremely slim".
Politics apart, officials indicated that the inquiry would lead to demands for plugging loopholes in India’s phone interception framework and building greater accountability into the system.
The home ministry has already taken the first steps to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of phones tapped by security agencies on the Union home secretary’s authorisation. Apart from probing the details of surveillance mounted on a young woman allegedly at Modi’s instance, the panel has also been asked to recommend measures for avoiding violation recurrences in Delhi and Himachal Pradesh.
BJP leaders have threatened to challenge the constitution of the panel, which is slated to be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge or chief justice of a high court.
Government sources, however, indicated the UPA had covered all the bases and had several SC judgments to back its decision. It was in this context that home minister Sushilkumar Shinde had told the BJP that it was free to move courts to block the inquiry commission.
The Gujarat police surveillance extended beyond its boundaries and appeared to have violated the Telegraph Act — which is a central legislation — and the laid down rules.
But senior officials conceded that the findings of the panel – which was set up to dent Modi’s credibility – were unlikely to be able to indict the Gujarat chief minister. "It is very rare for an inquiry commission to reach the doors of political leadership," a senior official said.
Sebi may access call records soon
Clearing the decks for allowing market regulator Sebi to access call data records, the home ministry is unlikely to object to proposals that the regulator invoke its powers to call for information to cover call records too. If Parliament has empowered the regulator to seek the information under the Sebi Act, how can any department stand in the way, a government official asked.