Friday, October 10, 2014

Snoopgate probe comes to an end, Gujarat HC scraps panel

Gujarat high court on Friday quashed the probe panel setup by the state government to look into the reports of stalking of a young architect by ATS sleuths at the instance of then MoS home Amit Shah in 2009.

The HC quashed the probe panel's appointment in response to a petition filed by the architect's father Pranlal Soni, who demanded to put an end to the issue on the ground that the existence and functioning of this commission are in breach of his family's privacy.

Soni filed the petition on Thursday and Justice Paresh Upadhyay heard the case, sought the state government's opinion and quashed the setting up of the probe panel.

The probe commission comprising Justice Sugnya Bhatt and retired IAS K C Kapoor was set up on November 26 last year after two investigative news portals - and had uploaded audio tapes on November 15 claiming that Shah had ordered the illegal surveillance of a woman at the behest of one "Saheb".

This was exposed after IPS officer and an accused in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case G L Sighal's pen-drive, which contained more than 250 audio files, was recovered by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The probe panel began inquiry and got three extensions till date.

It summoned Singhal and Shah, but none appeared before it.

On the other hand, Soni made representations before various authorities to wind up the inquiry including human rights commission on the ground that it is in violation of his family's right to privacy. He finally moved HC.

Soni submitted that the surveillance was done with the consent of his family, and he is not a victim in this case. But the most important aspect is continuing inquiry amounts to breach of his privacy. His lawyer argued that section 3 of the Inquiry Commission Act mandates the government to commission such inquiry when there is grievance or when the issue is of utmost public importance.

But in this case, the information was gathered from various media and though there was no complainant, the inquiry was set up without thinking that it is a personal and private matter and not of the public importance or national importance. He urged the court to trash the inquiry being violative of Soni's fundamental right to privacy.
The HC asked the state government, which did not dispute the facts of the case. When there was no objection found from the side of the government, Justice Upadhyay quashed the order for setting up of the inquiry into the case.

Before this, two PIL were filed questioning the scope and reference of this inquiry commission on the ground that the government should order inquiry into interception of all mobile calls, and not only in this 2009 incident.

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