Phone tapping issue rocks Parliament

Phone tapping issue rocks Parliament

New Delhi: Union home minister P Chidambaram on Monday categorically said that no telephone tapping on political leaders was ‘authorized’ by the government, which was put on mat by a united and furious opposition which stalled Parliament business.

Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were rocked by the phone tapping allegation in a news magazine and adjourned for the day hours ahead of schedule as sparks flew as soon as the two Houses assembled for the day.

A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the issue was also demanded by the opposition, as members said the alleged action was reminiscent of Emergency days.

“I wish to state categorically that no telephone tapping or eavesdropping on political leaders was authorised by the previous UPA government. Nor has the present UPA government authorised any such activity," Chidambaram said in the Lok Sabha trying to assuage the concerns of the agitated opposition members.

The opposition charge in the Lok Sabha was led by senior BJP leader L K Advani who demanded a statement from the Prime Minister. A similar demand was made by his party colleague Venkaiah Naidu in the Rajya Sabha. Advani demanded passing a law to prevent the government from tapping phones of political leaders.

Chidambaram in his statement read out amidst the din said the report in ‘Outlook’ magazine on phone tapping was thoroughly enquired into and “nothing has been found in the records of the NTRO (National Technical Research Organisation) to substantiate the allegations."

Responding to Advani’s demand, Leader of Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee said the Prime Minister could make a statement only at 1530 hours as he had a luncheon meeting with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Otherwise, they should allow the home minister to make a statement to clarify the issue.

But the opposition members were not satisfied with Mukherjee’s statement and continued their protests. Members of the BSP, which is cosying up to the government ahead of the crucial cut motions, were conspicuously silent during the protests.

The news weekly had alleged in an article that the phones of union minister Sharad Pawar, Congress leader Digvijay Singh, CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had been tapped.