BJP slams Virbhadra remarks on illegal phone tapping

Shimla, July 25 (IANS) The opposition BJP in Himachal Pradesh Thursday took strong exception to Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh's purported remarks holding its leader and former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal responsible for illegal phone tapping.

"The chief minister is trying to influence the (phone tapping) inquiry being conducted by the vigilance bureau," BJP spokesman Ganesh Dutt told reporters here.

"When the chief minister himself holds the home portfolio, how could the probe be impartial and independent," he asked.

Irked by the propaganda to malign him, Dhumal has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to get the matter probed by a central agency, he said.

"Dhumal has already clarified that the government is free to conduct a probe through a sitting high court judge," the spokesman added.

The vigilance and anti-corruption bureau of Himachal Pradesh last month lodged a first information report (FIR) in the phone tapping case. But so far no one has been named in the FIR.

The present Congress government has accused the Dhumal-led previous government of tapping certain telephone numbers illegally through the state criminal investigation and vigilance departments.

Dhumal, however, refuted the charges.

The total number of phones tapped, mainly of Congress leaders, government functionaries and journalists in violation of the Indian Telegraph Act, was over 1,300, said officials.

Of these, the home department had granted permission to tap only 170 phones, they said.

Virbhadra Singh also accused the previous government of tapping his phones and bugging his rooms.

"While Dhumal was the chief minister, he was helped by then director general of police D.S. Manhas, his successor I.D. Bhandari and some other police officials," the chief minister alleged.

Bhandari, who was heading the CID when the illegal phone tapping took place, was removed in February.


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