A team of the BKC cyber police in Mumbai recorded senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis’s statement for almost for two hours on Sunday at his residence in connection with a case of alleged illegal tapping of phones, an official said. IPS officer Rashmi Shukla is accused of tapping phones of political leaders and senior officials illegally when she was chief of the SID. Former Maharashtra chief minister Fadnavis had cited a letter purportedly written by her to the then Maharashtra Director General of Police about alleged corruption in transfers in the police department.
The letter also had details of intercepted phone calls, leading to an uproar with leaders of the Shiv Sena-led ruling coalition alleging that Shukla tapped phones without permission. Following a complaint lodged by the State Intelligence Department (SID), a case was registered under the Official Secrets Act at the BKC cyber police station in Mumbai last year against unidentified persons for allegedly illegally tapping phones and leaking confidential documents. Before the FIR was registered, the then Maharashtra chief secretary Sitaram Kunte had alleged in his inquiry report that Shukla had leaked the confidential report.
On Sunday, a team comprising Deputy Commissioner of Police Hemraj Singh Rajput, Assistant Commissioner of Police Nitin Jadhav and two inspectors, reached Fadnavis’s bungalow ‘Sagar’ around noon. They recorded the BJP leader’s statement for about two hours and then left his residence, an official said. Heavy security was deployed outside Fadnavis’s home, where a number of BJP leaders gathered, including MLA Nitesh Rane, MLCs Prakash Lad and Pravin Darekar, and party leader Kripashankar Singh.
The police had issued a notice to Fadnavis in connection with the case and BJP workers on Sunday staged protests and burnt copies of the notice in parts of the state, including Pune, Pandharpur (in Solapur district), Nagpur, Chandrapur and Sangli. BJP MLA Ashish Shelar said, Let them record it (the statement). The truth never hides and it can never be defeated.” In fact, Devendra Fadnavis has brought to light corruption in this case. It was expected that those who engaged in corruption or are facing corruption allegations were probed in this case. But, the Maharashtra government is somewhere trying to use pressure tactics on the opponents, he told a news channel.
Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Council Pravin Darekar told another channel that, “He (Fadnavis) brought before the people corruption in transfers (of officials)now this (state) government is trying to counter that allegation.” Darekar claimed the MVA government (comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) was facing embarrassment in Maharashtra due to the corruption allegations levelled against it and therefore, making the poor and unfortunate attempt to target Fadnavis.
However, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut in a Twitter post asked, Why some people and political parties think of themselves as being above the law?” “The central agencies summoned several ministers and public representatives in Maharashtra for probe out of political vendetta and they appeared before the agencies..No one has special rights in democracy. All are equal before the law. Why this drama then? asked the Shiv Sena’s chief spokesperson.
Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray claimed the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government does not use its agencies against the opponents as campaign machineries like the Centre does. We just take forward the legal process. I don’t want to comment more about it, the Sena leader said, when asked about instances of complaints being filed against each other by the ruling and opposition parties in Maharashtra.
He also claimed the BJP was frustrated, and hence staging protests on various issues. But, Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil said the allegations of the Centre misusing probe agencies to target political opponents need to be challenged in court, which has been supportive such action of these agencies so far.
Leaders like Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik (both of the NCP) continue to be in jail since they are unable to get bail from courts, as the action taken by the probe agencies is based on evidence, he said. “If there is a misuse of central agencies, the court will rap them, like recently, the court rapped you (MVA) in cases pertaining to Anil Deshmukh, (dismissed police officer) Sachine Waze and even (former Mumbai police commissioner) Param Bir Singh,” he said.
Citing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on March 10 after the BJP won Assembly polls in four states, Patil pointed out that the PM had said “doubting independent agencies and the court is harmful to the core of democracy”. Patil claimed the Maharashtra government was afraid of initiating action against Fadnavis as it knew lakhs of people will hit the streets in protest.
“You (MVA) are afraid, so now you are going to his (Fadnavis’) home to record his statement,” he said. Patil also said that their fight was against corruption and not the Shiv Sena.
Fadnavis last Tuesday submitted a pen drive containing video recordings to state Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Narhari Zirwal, saying the footage showed how conspiracies were hatched by police and MVA members to frame BJP leaders, including himself and Girish Mahajan, in false cases. To a question on this, Patil said, “If you are saying central agencies have been used for the video recording, then why are you not talking about what has been recorded. Why aren’t you commenting whether the recording is true or false? .
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