The father of the victim of alleged snooping by the Gujarat Government today moved the Supreme Court in a bid to stop the reported probe by a Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Union Government. News websites Cobrapost and Gulail had released an audio tape last year that suggested that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his aide and then State Home Minister Amit Shah were tracking movements of the woman in question.
The victim’s father has appealed to the apex court to consider the family’s need for privacy. Responding to the appeal, a two-judge bench of the court, comprising Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and NV Ramana, has served notices to the Union and Gujarat Governments, instructing them to ensure that the identities of the woman and her family be kept confidential.
Further, the woman’s father sought an immediate restraint order to stop the media from publishing identities of his family members, but the bench refused to gag the media. The bench only made a formal request to reporters present in the courtroom to refrain from naming the woman and the family. The appeal said the media coverage of the “happily married” woman was “tarnishing the reputation of the family and further infringement of their fundamental rights, causing them immense anguish and suffering”.
It is interesting to note that allies in the United Progressive Alliance Government, the Nationalist Congress Party and National Conference, had found the search for a judge to head the commission in the dying hours of the current government a misplaced and inexplicable priority.
The Gujarat Government, Modi and Shah have denied the charges, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) they are part of has maintained throughout that the woman’s family asked for her security cover due to which following her became an imperative. When the issue surfaced, the woman’s father endorsed the BJP stand. Again in today’s petition, the family claimed it had stated before the commission that the “safety measures” taken by the state agencies as reflected in the two web portals were “not only within the knowledge of the petitioners (father and daughter) but were fully justified and appropriate under the circumstances prevailing at that point of time”.
“It was also pointed out that both the petitioners and their family members remain thankful to the state authorities for taking timely adequate steps upon a person…” the petition read.
However, there is one aspect where the family concerned differs with the Gujarat Government. After they deposed before the commission set up by the Government of Gujarat, the petition said, the campaign should have concluded. “The petitioners, however, surprisingly learnt that the State Government, in exercise of its powers under Section 3 of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1951, appointed a two-member Commission vide notification dated Nov 26, 2013.”
“The terms of reference are clearly violative of the petitioners’ right to privacy, more particularly, when the petitioners themselves have repeatedly stated and clarified that they are not aggrieved by any action taken by the State authorities,” the petition said.
“As part of the said on-going attempts, the petitioners were shocked to learn from newspapers published in responsible newspapers that the Central Government is also contemplating to constitute a commission of enquiry under the Enquiries Act,” read the appeal.
Suspended Gujarat-cadre bureaucrat Pradeep Sharma objected to the Gujarat Government’s stand on the affair, but political commentators thought he had an axe to grind and did not lend credence to his version since January.