Jaipur, Mar 15 (PTI) The BJP on Monday demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on moral grounds after his government replied to a question in the state Assembly that it taps phones in the interest of public safety and order.
Though the reply did not say it tapped phones of Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhwat and supporters of former deputy CM Sachin Pilot after a rebellion in the Congress last year, the BJP linked it with the episode and demanded a CBI probe into it.
The Congress has denied the allegations with its chief whip in the state Assembly Mahesh Joshi saying they did not tap phone of any MLA or MP.
The reactions came after the state government replied to a question asked by BJP MLA Kalicharan in the state Assembly last year.
In the session called on August 14 by the Gehlot government for a floor test after the rebellion by Pilot and 18 other Congress MLAs, Kalicharan had asked, “Is it true that phone tapping cases have come up in the last days? If yes, under which law and by whose orders?” In its reply given recently, the Home Department stated that telephones are intercepted in the interest of public safety and order.
“The telephones are intercepted under the provision of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and Section 419 (A) of the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, 2007, and Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 – after approval by a competent officer,” according to the reply.
The department further states, “Interception cases are reviewed by the chief secretary. All cases up to the month of November 2020 have been reviewed.” Neither the MLA asked details about any particular person whose phone was tapped nor did the government gave any specific information about it.
However on Monday, the BJP attacked the government over the issue and demanded Gehlot’s resignation, accusing him of misleading the public.
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhwat in a series of tweets accused the Congress of using government machinery to contain rebellion inside the party by tapping phones.
BJP’s Rajasthan chief Satish Poonia demanded a CBI inquiry into the matter. “This is what the BJP had said in July last year - 'Emergency is going on in Rajasthan'. The Gehlot government denied it at the time, and is now accepting that the phones were tapped. This is a violation of privacy, the murder of democracy,” Shekhawat tweeted.
“There is a question from the public that why was phone tapping done using government machinery to contain the internal rebellion of the Congress Party? Why did the Congress government use the administration in its own interest? This is an illegal process,” he said.
Shekhawat alleged that the Congress trapped phones of its own MLAs, including a “young leader”.
“Insult at peak has been the tradition of the Congress. How can the Rajasthanis trust a government that does not trust its MLAs,” he asked. Meanwhile, state BJP chief Satish Poonia alleged that lies were told and facts were tempered with.
“The chief minister, who holds the home portfolio, is guilty of this,” Poonia told reporters here, demanding that the chief minister should resign on moral grounds and the matter should be investigated by the CBI.
Trashing the charges, the Congress said it did not tap phone of any MLA or MP.
'The government in a reply to the question has mentioned the process of phone interception under the law. After permission from competent authority, it is done. The Rajasthan government has not tapped phone of any MLA or minister,' Joshi said.
'If Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is so confident that phones were tapped, why he does not give his voice samples. It will prove whether the phone was tapped or not,' he said.
On the other hand, RLP’s Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal said the state government indulged in an illegal act.
He alleged phone tapping took place during the rule of Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government also and demanded an inquiry into matter.
A controversy over phone tapping had erupted last year after audio clips purportedly having telephonic conversation between Union minister Gajendra Singh and Congress leaders surfaced.
Congress leaders of the Ashok Gehlot camp had alleged that BJP leaders were involved in horse trading to topple the state government.
The state government had rejected allegations of phone tapping.
CM Gehlot had categorically stated in the last session of the Assembly that no illegal tapping of phones of any MLA or MP was done in the state. PTI SDA RDK RDK