M A I N   N E W S

Centre takes U-turn on snoopgate probe
Won’t appoint panel head, leaves it to next govt Loss of face for Congress as party bows to ally pressure
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 5
A day after two UPA allies, the NCP and the NC, questioned the haste to appoint a judge for probing snooping charges against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress-led government today decided to leave the task to the next dispensation.

Sources in the PMO confirmed to The Tribune that a decision to defer the appointment of the judge for heading a Commission of Enquiry constituted last December to probe the scandal was taken today. It was likely to be announced soon.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who met President Pranab Mukherjee to brief him about the security situation in Assam after 23 killings in ethnic clashes, is learnt to have consulted the President on snooping scandal also. “The decision to let the next government appoint the judge was taken after wide consultations and on technical grounds,” government sources said.

In December 2013, the Cabinet approved the setting up of a Commission of Enquiry into the scandal involving Modi and the then Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah. Since then, the government has been unsuccessfully searching for a judge to head the panel constituted under Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952.

In a bid to find the judge, the government recently amended the original terms of reference of the commission, which was to be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court. The altered terms say a retired high court judge can also be appointed. The Centre’s volte face is sure to give the BJP enough fodder to attack the Congress and claim moral victory over it. The Congress was clearly left embarrassed today as the decision to defer the appointment came after Home Minister Shinde and Law Minister Kapil Sibal said over the past week that a judge would be in place by May 16, the day of Lok Sabha results. Both said the decision was old and did not fall under the model code of conduct.

Asked what led to the U-turn, Congress insiders admitted the decision at this juncture would have led to questions about the credibility of any judge who took over, even if he did a good job. The party agreed that the delay in the appointment had led to the current embarrassing situation.

“This delay should not have happened. There was ample time since January to pursue the appointment of a judge. The allies also cannot be ignored,” said a senior Congress functionary. He also acknowledged that the flip flop could have political ramifications with the BJP marketing the development as loss of face for the Congress.

Asked if it was wrong on the Congress’ part to rake up a dead issue, sources said the drift could have been avoided. The party, however, reiterated that the decision to constitute a commission was right and the matter was not anti-Modi or personal.





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