The government has identified retired Allahabad high court judge Achal Behari Srivastava, an octogenarian who once sought a Congress election ticket, to head the panel probing allegations that Narendra Modi ordered illegal surveillance of a woman architect.
The move to appoint Srivastava to look into the so-called Snoopgate controversy comes 12 days before the results of a general election widely expected to go against the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
Read: No judge will be part of snoopgate probe: Jaitley
Neither Srivastava or home secretary Anil Goswami replied to text messages on the matter from HT. The judge was traced to Kolkata where, his nephew said, he had gone to attend to a relative injured in a cricket game and was therefore unavailable to talk to the press.
Srivastava, who turns 80 in November, retired from the high court in 1996. It is understood that he then expressed his desire to contest the 1998 Lok Sabha polls from Varanasi on a Congress platform.
But the NGO Srivastava was heading, Rule of Law Society, was against the idea because it wanted to be apolitical. In the end he did not fight the polls.
Read: Cong fires 10 'snoopgate' questions to Modi
Supreme Court advocate Balwant Singh, who was the president of the Ghazipur Bar Association in the past, told Hindustan Times that Srivastava was a member of the Congress national manifesto drafting committee in 1998-99. Singh, who was also a Congress member, confirmed Srivastava’s political affiliations with Congress.
Srivastava lives in Allahabad with his wife, who is a former professor of Sanskrit at the CMP College.
Read: Snoopgate panel by May 16; BJP says will scrap it