State home minister Dilip Walse Patil on Tuesday announced a high-level probe into the alleged phone tapping of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders during the previous Devendra Fadnavis regime in the state. The announcement came after state Congress chief Nana Patole said his phone was being illegally tapped by Fadnavis government using a dummy name.
A few legislators also suggested the state explore the possibility of putting in place a mechanism to stop “targetting by agencies like Enforcement Directorate”.
“A few issues are being raised by legislators, including the one of phone tapping raised by Patole. He also said that phones of other leaders were also tapped or kept on surveillance during 2016-17. If phones are being tapped using a dummy name, the matter needs to be investigated. In my view, it is a very serious issue and I declare a high-level probe in the matter. All those guilty will face strict action,” Walse Patil said in the state Assembly on Tuesday.
He also said there are clear rules which need to be followed in case of phone tapping. The intelligence commissioner is required to take prior permission from the additional chief secretary, home by disclosing the name, contact number and the reason behind the move.
The ruling legislators raised the issue after Patole informed them that his phone was tapped during Fadnavis government. “In 2016-17, my phone was tapped by the previous government by giving a dummy name — Amjad Khan. It was done on the grounds of narcotics smuggling. We need to investigate who gave the order to tap my phone,” Patole, also a Congress legislator, said in the lower House. “Not only this, phones of other public representatives were also tapped in the previous government. Such acts are alarming for all. It is an attempt to destroy the public life of public representatives. Democracy is in danger if legislators are being threatened in the assembly. They will face the same fate as Anil Deshmukh and Chhagan Bhujbal,” he added.
Jayant Patil, water resources minister and NCP legislator, also said the ruling MLAs are constantly getting threats in the media over initiating enforcement directorate or CBI probe. “The home minister should initiate a probe if central agencies are being misused and individual rights are being violated through the means of phone tapping. If investigation agencies other than Maharashtra are being used for tapping phones of legislators, it is our responsibility to protect them,” Patil said. Patole also suggested the government should explore the possibility of putting in place mechanism to “prevent targetting of the opposition leaders by central agencies”.
Another NCP minister Nawab Malik demanded a probe into Patole’s allegations. The home minister said he will check if phone tapping was done by central agencies in the state.
“The fear of central agencies and a discussion in the state Assembly over their misuse has never happened in Maharashtra before,’’ said presiding officer Bhaskar Jadhav.