New Delhi: The phones of some prominent political leaders including Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Digvijay Singh have been tapped, a prominent English news weekly has claimed.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat have also been tapped by National Technical Research Organisation, an intelligence agency created in the aftermath of the Kargil war to cover all aspects of technical intelligence gathering, "Outlook" magazine said in its latest issue.
While the phones of Singh and Kumar were tapped in 2007 and that of Karat in 2008 at the height of his opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal leading to the no-confidence motion against the government, the telephone of Pawar was tapped and taped last fortnight in the wake of the scandal in the IPL.
"Discussions between the minister and IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi were tapped and taped last fortnight in the wake of the scandal in the cricket league.
"The recorded conversations allegedly threw up inside details of the deals that were stuck in the bidding process for the various teams," the magazine said.
The magazine's Editor Vinod Mehta said that while he appreciated concerns of national security he wondered why telephone tapping was being resorted to against leaders for "political opportunism".
He said tapping could now now be done by modern gadgets within a radius of two km and there was no no need for any authorisation for the purpose. It could be misused against common public, he added.
Political parties criticised the government for the alleged resort to snooping on leaders.
BJP deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha S S Ahluwalia said his party would raise the issue in Parliament on Monday. He contended this was in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution which assures protection of life and liberty to every citizen.
His party colleague and spokesperson Nirmala Seetharaman said she was not not surprised or shocked by the Congress party-led government's "return" to emergency days.
CPI leader D Raja said India was a democracy and not not a military-state where personal freedoms are barred. Government should explain why it was doing this, he said adding he would raise the issue in the Rajya Sabha.