Snoopgate: Sugnyaben commission is illegally appointed: When Will Central Government act?


The latest discovery in the Mansi snooping scandal clearly points the fingers at the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the then Minister of State (MoS) for Home Amit Shah , IGP Arun K Sharma and GL Singhal as the main culprits who are responsible for the illegal snooping and phone tapping of Mansi Soni and Pradeep Sharma IAS. When the Chief Minister stands in the accused box, can a Commission appointed by him ever uncover the truth?? Perhaps that is the very reason why Modi hurriedly appointed the Commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Act on 26th November, 2013 to put a lid on the controversy.

The Government of Gujarat, as expected did not frame any terms of reference as to whether the CM Narendra Modi, MoS Amit Shah or the Police officers were guilty of illegal and unauthorized phone tapping. The terms of reference made were vague and motivated. The Commission was asked to give its report within three months. One month is almost over and as per reports, the Commission comprising of Sugnyaben Bhatt and KC Kapoor have not been given a workable office. Kapoor is not even available. Whereabouts of Mansi Soni is not known. A newspaper reported she has been sent abroad. A typical Modi’s ploy to avoid truth as he did in Nanavati Commission for the 2002 massacre.

Quite apart from the political chicanery of Modi, the real question is whether the Gujarat Government has the authority or power to appoint a Commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Act to inquire into acts or offenses which are beyond the boundaries of Gujarat. In the Mansi Soni case, she was followed and her phone and location tracked from Bangalore to Ahmedabad and back to Bangalore. We produce herein below a small extract of the conversation between Amit Shah and GL Singhal to show that Mansi’s location in Bangalore was being regularly tracked.

Mansi being tracked from Bangalore on 9.8.2009
Mansi tracked in Bangalore on 22.8.09
Amit Shah: Singhal, Amit this side
G.L.Singhal: Yes sir
Amit Shah: Please keep a proper tab of the phone
G.L.Singhal: Yes yes sir…..
Amit Shah: Whether it has been switched on
G.L.Singhal: Yes yes sir…..actually sir GoAir arrives at 5:40 and Indigo arrives at 8:20
Amit Shah: She is travelling by Indigo only
G.L.Singhal: yes yes sir, sir
Amit Shah: From Bangalore to….Ahmedabad
G.L.Singhal: Yes yes sir G.L.Singhal: Secondly, that lady has reached there and her location is coming as North Bangalore Sir at quarter to eight now.
Amit Shah: Alright
G.L.Singhal: Yes
AS: In short, they she’s there
G.L.Singhal: Yes, I have asked for (location) after one hour, so I will get it after one hour and thereafter I will let you know.
Amit Shah: Understood. So that we know the location.
G.L.Singhal: Yes yes
Further the conversation below between GL Singhal and AK Sharma, clearly shows that the then IG AK Sharma of CID Intelligence, Gujarat, was intercepting-tapping-recording-archiving Mansi Soni’s phone and sending audio cds to the ‘Saheb’.

AK Sharma: Then I think that must be his voice because that voice was a bit doubtful.. and..he said that he would eat together. He was talking about lunch.
GL Singhal: yes..yes
AK Sharma: He said that they would eat together.
AK Sharma: okay let me enquire about it. I was doubtful about the voice but I have sent it to Saheb
GL Singhal: ok..
AK Sharma: Because I was doubtful about the voice but I sent it to saheb in CD.
GL Singhal: yes..yes.

To understand the legal provisions involved in this matter, we must first notice that even the Central Government does not have any authority to tap any phone or intercept any message unless a legal order is passed under section (5)(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act read with Rule 419A of the India Telegraph rules. Briefly, Section 5(2) reads as under:

5(2) On the occurrence of any public emergency, or in the interest of the public safety … any officer specially authorized in this behalf by the Central Government or a State Government may, if satisfied that it is necessary … the security of the State … direct that any message or class of messages to or from any person or class of persons, … shall be intercepted…

Further under the Rule 419A, no direction for interception can be issued except by an order made by the Secretary to the Government of India in Ministry of Home Affairs and by the Secretary to the State Government in charge of Home Department in case of a State. Moreover, under Rule 419A(17), a Review Committee has to review whether the order is made as per law or not within two months. Thus, as per the law, neither GL Singhal on behalf of Amit Shah or IGP AK Sharma on behalf of CM could have tapped the phone or tracked the location of either Mansi Soni resident of Bangalore or Pradeep Sharma resident of Bhavnagar without orders from Secretary Government of India or the Secretary of Home, Gujarat Government, respectively.

The above facts and law brings us to the next issue. Under the aforesaid situation, can Government of Gujarat inquire into the snooping? Under section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, the Central Government can appoint Commissions to inquire into matters relatable to matters enumerated in List I or List II or List III in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution; similarly, the State Government can appoint Commissions into matters relatable to matters enumerated in List II or List III in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. All matters relatable to posts, telegraphs, telephones, wireless etc are to be found in entry No. 31 of the Union list that is List-I.

In simple language therefore, only the Central Government can appoint the Commission to inquire into the illegal and unauthorized tapping and interception of phone calls and not the State Government. Why has the Central Government abdicated its own constitutional power to govern the country – is it weak or is it scared? Here we have a Chief Minister who personally contravenes the rule of law and then goes on to illegally appoint a commission to cover up his guilt! We would like to remind the Centre that it has a duty cast upon it under Article 355 of the Constitution to govern the country in accordance to the provisions of the Constitution. If the Centre cannot govern the country in accordance to the provisions of the Constitution, it might as well quit NOW.

(First Published in Truth Of Gujrat)

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