What do the tape-recordings of illegal surveillance on a woman by the Home Minister and ATS for their ‘Saheb’, and the BJP’s line of defence, show about the state of democracy in BJP’s ‘model’ state Gujarat?
The tapes show that the then Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah monitored the minute-by-minute intrusive surveillance of a young woman’s personal life, to relay information to their ‘Saheb’.
The BJP’s defence actually authenticates the tapes and identifies ‘Saheb’, and exposed the woman’s identity which the media web sites that revealed the tapes had kept private. The BJP issued a letter supposedly written by the woman’s father, claiming that the surveillance was actually ‘protection’ which he had requested for his daughter from his ‘family friend’ Narendra Modi. So the BJP does not deny the tapes, and in fact tacitly admits that ‘Saheb’ is Modi.
It is ironic that the Chief Minister who turned a deaf ear to Ehsan Jafri’s repeated calls for help, is today claiming that he provided round-the-clock ATS ‘protection’ to a woman (including cops following her in a flight) in response to a worried father’s request!
Several questions arise. Why did ‘protection’ for a woman require surveillance by the ATS? Why wasn’t the surveillance legal? The Telegraph Act mandates that phone-tapping can be allowed only in a ‘public Emergency’ that endangers ‘public safety’, on receipt of a Home Secretary’s order. The Supreme Court verdict in the 1996 PUCL case further ordered that a Review Committee must verify the Home Secretary’s order to ensure that the tapping was required because of an authentic threat to public safety. While the BJP trots out absurd defences, the otherwise voluble Gujarat CM is silent on whether his Government can show the required written order by Home Secretary and authentication by Review Committee.
Further, the actual transcripts leave us in no doubt that the surveillance was not to protect the woman. Not a single line in the tapes does Amit Shah express any concern for the woman’s safety, rather the ATS cops tell him that they laid a ‘trap’ for her which she was too ‘clever’ and so escaped. Far from protecting her, Amit Shah tells the ATS cop to identify the boy she was meeting, so that he could be ‘jailed for longer than Vanzara has been jailed.’ Why did ‘Saheb’ have such an obsessive interest in details of the woman’s personal life, including even who was with her in her hotel room at night? The BJP’s excuse that the ‘father asked for it’ is extremely weak because the tapes show that the woman’s parents’ phones and her conversations with them were also tapped.