New Delhi: Even though the BJP may think that the UPA government’s decision to constitute a commission of inquiry into the snoopgate scandal was a knee-jerk reaction to counter the rising popularity of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, highly-placed government sources have informed this newspaper that on the contrary, it was a well-thought-out decision.
In fact, sources added, the Union home ministry had prepared the Cabinet note for constituting the commission of inquiry only after getting reports from multiple agencies which confirmed that “the surveillance was done in gross violation of all legal norms which puts the Gujarat government on an extremely sticky wicket”.
Sources claimed that there was strong evidence to suggest that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were not followed in case of snooping on a woman architect on alleged instructions of the then Gujarat home minister Amit Shah, a trusted aide of Modi.
The feedback received by the home ministry from various agencies indicated that the mobile surveillance was done in a completely arbitrary manner and if a detailed probe was carried out it would lead to serious trouble for the state police, the state home department and even the concerned service provider.
It was only after central intelligence agencies informed the Union home ministry that there was no written record available of the “technical surveillance” that the Centre decided to go ahead with the commission of inquiry. The MHA had done its homework in terms of Centre’s jurisdiction on such matters as the legal opinion taken by the ministry confirmed that the Centre could intervene if surveillance, either technical or human, extended beyond the boundaries of one state.
The ministry, which looked into all possible legal aspects before approaching the Cabinet, was also informed that there was no need for consent from either the concerned victim or her family before ordering the probe. Sources claimed if prima facie it is established that a law has been violated the government can unilaterally order an inquiry.
It is largely believed that the BJP will soon challenge the constitution of the Commission in court. But Home Ministry top brass is confident of having a case in this issue. ``Do you think the Government would have gone ahead with this move if it was not sure about its facts,’’a serious Ministry official said.
The development assumes significant proportions as the Commission’s report will come within three months thus coinciding with the peak campaign of the Lok Sabha elections early next year. The Congress is determined to use the development to embarrass Modi now that he has been cleared in the crucial 2002 Gulbarga Society riots case.
Sources said the Congress was very confident that it has strong evidence to nail the Gujarat Government on the snoopgate controversy.
``If the BJP fails to get a stay on the Commission from court it would spell serious trouble for its Prime Ministerial candidate. Once the Commission starts seeking all the data and records from the Gujarat Government it would be in trouble since no written record permitting the surveillance exists,’’a top Government functionary said.