Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's close aide and former minister of state for home Amit Shah was on Friday accused of misusing his powers and police machinery for illegal surveillance of a young woman in 2009.
The allegations were made at a press conference here along with release of over half-an-hour of tapped telephonic conversations, purportedly between Shah and Gujarat IPS officer G L Singhal, which two investigative portals Cobrapost and Gulail claimed have been submitted before CBI in the Ishrat Jahan murder case.
Amit Shah. File Pic
However, the two websites also said "at this point of time, Gulail and Cobrapost have no means to independently verify these charges.
While the tapped conversations that purportedly took place between August and September 2009 do not mention Modi, the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate by name, the websites said that "listening to the conversations leaves no doubt that the people involved in the operation knew the 'saheb'," at whose behest the alleged snooping was being carried out.
The two portals claim that Modi had met this woman--an architect from Bangalore whose parents were in Gujarat--in 2005 during a public function of Bhavnagar Municipal Corporation.
The girl's father, however, said in a statement that his daughter, who was based in Bangalore, had come to Ahmedabad when her mother was to undergo a surgery. She was required to commute at odd hours between the hospital and a nearby hotel which was a matter of concern to him. He had, therefore, orally requested Modi, "with whom we have long-standing family relations" to "take care" of her.
He was shocked that some "vested interests" were approaching the media in this regard.
BJP sources declined to react immediately, saying that the girl's father had already issued a statement.
The press conference was also attended by noted social activist and former NAC (National Advisory Council) member Aruna Roy, lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan and former Navy Chief Admiral (Retired) L Ramdas, among others.
Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal said that Amit Shah should come clean on who was this "saheb" and why was he "so much interested" in the woman. He also said that since CBI is already looking into the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, it should take cognisance of the matter and inquire into it.
Calling the woman by a fictitious name 'Madhuri', the websites alleged that the illegal surveillance was ordered by Shah for his 'Saheb' and the police followed her inside malls, restaurants, gyms, airport, flights and even when she visited relatives and went to see her mother at a hospital.
Singhal, who is an accused in the Ishrat Jahan case and is out on bail, apparently handed over hundreds of recorded telephonic conversations to the CBI to try to show how three key wings of the Gujarat Police--the State Intelligence Bureau, the Crime Branch and the Anti-Terrorist Squad --allegedly misused their powers to stalk this woman.
It was claimed that the surveillance-cum-phone interception operation was carried out on oral orders, without any valid legal authorisation. The 267 audio recordings submitted to the CBI primarily contain telephonic conversations between Shah and Singhal, who was at the time posted as an SP with ATS. Shah was Minister of State for Home for seven years between 2003 and 2010, while Modi himself has been Gujarat's home minister since October 2001.
Shah was arrested in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case in 2010 and is out on bail, looking after BJP's poll campaign in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. They also said that such kinds of surveillance was in complete violation of Supreme Court guidelines and against the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country.