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police file case against Adhikari over allegations of phone tapping

Kolkata: The police in East Midnapore district on Tuesday filed a case against Bharatiya Janata Party’s Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of opposition in the West Bengal assembly, accusing him of intimidating and insulting government officials and tapping their phones
PUBLISHED ON JUL 21, 2021 12:30 AM IST

Kolkata: The police in East Midnapore district on Tuesday filed a case against Bharatiya Janata Party’s Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of opposition in the West Bengal assembly, accusing him of intimidating and insulting government officials and tapping their phones.

The case has been filed by the police on their own accord based on a video in which Adhikari purportedly said that he has all the records of phone calls made from the office of chief minister Mamata Banerjee to her nephew, Trinamool Congress’ national general secretary and Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee.

East Midnapore superintendent of police Amarnath K said at a press conference on Tuesday that Adhikari said in the video that he has the phone records of police officers too, which he should not officially have. “Hence, a case has been registered under the Official Secrets Act. He made some communal statements as well for which Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code has been added. A charge under the Disaster Management Act has also been added as more than 50 people had assembled for the meeting violating Covid-19 restrictions,” Amarnath K said.

In the 35-second video clip, which was shot outside the SP’s office in Tamluk on Monday, Adhikari can be heard referring to the chief minister as “aunt” and Abhishek Banerjee as “nephew”. “The role of the IO (investigating officer), inspector-in-charge and the superintendent of police will be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Then you will understand that no aunt can save you. Phone calls are made to you from the nephew’s office. I have all the phone numbers and call records. If you have the state government, we have the central government,” Adhikari can be heard saying in the clip.

HT could not independently verify the authenticity of the video or identify of the police officers being referred to in it. But a section of the local media in the state reported that the statement was made at a public meeting in East Midnapore district on Monday afternoon and Adhikari was referring to local police officers.

Adhikari’s comments have created quite a stir in the state, especially as they surfaced a day after opposition parties cornered the BJP in Parliament, accusing the central government of using military grade Israeli spyware Pegasus to snoop on opposition leaders, journalists, activists and government officials. TMC has said in Parliament that Abhishek Banerjee was among those whose phones were tapped.

Adhikari didn’t deny the charges. “One should not give importance to this. The TMC and police are synonymous,” he said.

The TMC reacted sharply, saying the video confirms the illegal use of Pegasus malware by the BJP. “Adhikari should be arrested immediately and interrogated in custody. He has proved that Pegasus was used to snoop on many people, including Abhishek Banerjee. This is a heinous crime. The Centre is misusing its powers,” said TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh.

West Bengal BJP’s chief spokesperson, Samik Bhattacharya, played it down. “Suvendu Adhikari is a seasoned politician. He made the statements at a political rally. If the police can lodge cases against Adhikari, why is Mukul Roy being spared? After joining the BJP (in 2017) he told a television channel that his phone was tapped by the TMC government,” he said.

Mukul Roy, who was a national vice-president of the BJP, returned to the TMC on June 11 along with his son.

Adhikari is a legislator from East Midnapore’s Nandigram where he defeated chief minister Mamata Banerjee in the recent assembly polls by 1,958 votes. His father and one of his brothers are TMC Lok Sabha MPs.

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