Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has rejected a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe on the telephone-tapping issue.
"There is no need for Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe on telephone-tapping issue, says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh," the PM said.
JPC is a very serious issue. We can't rush into such a conclusion in haste, the Prime Minister added.
Earlier on Monday, in the face of an outraged Opposition, Home Minister P Chidambaram denied that the UPA government had authorised any phone tapping. But the Opposition made clear only an explanation from the Prime Minister would do and repeatedly disrupted Parliament proceedings.
Lok Sabha recommenced at 2 pm with the promise of that statement from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue of phones of political leaders and others being tapped. Within minutes, however, the possibility was gone with a noisy Opposition forcing the House to adjourn for the rest of the day.
The Rajya Sabha was similarly adjourned on the issue - a report by news weekly Outlook
that the phones of several political leaders were allegedly tapped using new technology, by an intelligence agency, the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO).
In all the ruckus, Home Minister P Chidambaram managed to make a small statement denying that the UPA government had authorised any phone tap. (Read: Chidambram's Statement on phone tapping issue
All but drowned by the shouting Opposition, Chidambaram said, "I wish to state categorically that phone tapping or eavesdropping on political leaders was not authorised by the previous UPA government nor has the present government authorised any such activity. We will look into the allegations of the story of Outlook...nothing has been found in the records of NTRO to substantiate the allegations." He said further inquiries were being made.
Chidambaram also said that the alleged reports in the magazines were not substantiated. "Nothing has been found in the records of the NTRO or elsewhere to substantiate the allegations," the home minister said.
The Home Minister also said, "Our intelligence agencies function within the law...they are fully accountable to the government...Such monitoring may be necessary to fight crime, ensure national security, or for our counter terrorism efforts. This is subject to multiple tests and oversight."
But the Home Minister's statement was not what the Opposition wanted. They insisted nothing short of the Prime Minister's explanation would do.
BJP leader LK Advani said, "The House won't be satisfied till the PM comes and explains." He harked back to the days of Emergency and said that this situation was something akin to that situation. And against the fabric of democracy. He demanded a new law to stop "the government from abusing its power." (Read: Advani's blog on phone taps
Pranab Mukherji then said the Prime Minster would be ready to make a statement only after his meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
The Opposition is once again speaking on the same side of an argument, with the Left parties, the BJP demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to investigate the matter.
report has claimed that the phones of some prominent political leaders including Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Digvijay Singh, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat have been tapped by the National Technical Research Organisation, an intelligence agency created after the Kargil War to cover all aspects of technical intelligence gathering.
The report alleged that while the phones of Singh and Kumar were tapped in 2007 and that of Karat in 2008 at the height of his opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal leading to the no-confidence motion against the UPA government, Pawar's phone was tapped and taped last fortnight in the wake of the IPL controversy.
The Opposition is up in arms and asks: Are ministers and chief ministers and other political leaders a threat to the nation?
"If the government is tapping the phones of terrorists, or tax evaders or secessionists, then it is understandable as national interest and national security are involved. But tapping phones of politicians and ministers is condemnable," BJP Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha S S Ahluwalia said.
Congress leaders have alluded to how it could have been a mistake. "It is entirely possible that legitimate national security activity could have had an unintended inclusion of snatches of conversation by inadvertence and not by design. But these are explanations for which the government will come up. Till then let us not give advance threats of disruption," was the response of Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi.Also See:CPM reaction to Home Minister's statement