Snoopgate scandal: Gujarat HC quashes probe panel

The Gujarat High Court on Friday set aside a state government notification constituting an inquiry commission to probe alleged snooping on a woman architect in 2009, accepting her father's plea that it will infringe her 'Right to Privacy'.

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Friday set aside a state government notification constituting an inquiry commission to probe alleged snooping on a woman architect in 2009, accepting her father's plea that it will infringe her 'Right to Privacy'.

Granting the plea of the woman's father, Justice Paresh Upadhyay quashed the notification under which the two-member Commission of retired Justice Sugnya Bhatt and former IAS officer K C Kapoor was formed.

The Gujarat government had on November 25 constituted the Commission to probe the alleged snooping scandal in which the woman was kept under surveillance by the state police allegedly on instructions from BJP president Amit Shah, who was then Minister of State for Home in Gujarat.

A major controversy had erupted after two news portals-- Cobrapost.Com and Gulail.Com, had released taped conversations purportedly between Shah and IPS officer G L Singhal for snooping on the woman allegedly at the behest of one 'Saheb' they claimed was Narendra Modi, who was then Gujarat Chief Minister. The portals, however, had said the authenticity of the tapes could not be confirmed.

The woman's father had approached the High Court yesterday and sought quashing of the probe panel, maintaining they were not 'aggrieved' with the alleged surveillance.

Apart from claiming 'Right to Privacy', the petitioner contended that as per section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, the State or Central government can form an inquiry commission to probe an issue related to public interest.

However, in this case no issue related to public interest was involved and further inquiry would be an infringement of the woman's privacy, the petition said.

Petitioner's counsel N D Nanavati argued that the Commission was formed merely on the basis of media reports.

"The alleged surveillance was done in 2009, so what made media to release the news reports after four years," Nanavati said.

He contended the constitution of the Commission was an arbitrary action by the state government as the petitioner was not aggrieved.

However, Additional Advocate General of Gujarat P K Jani said the state government felt it appropriate to form the Commission at the relevant point of time.

After hearing the arguments of both sides, the court accepted the prayer of the petitioner and annulled the probe panel.

Earlier, the woman and her father had approached the Supreme Court against the move of the then UPA government to appoint a Commission to probe the alleged surveillance.

However, after the Central government back-tracked on the appointment of the Commission, the apex court had asked the family to approach the High Court regarding their demand to scrap the panel appointed by Gujarat government.  

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