A team of Mumbai cyber police on Sunday recorded the statement of former Maharasthra Chief Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis at his residence for almost two hours as part of their investigation into the case in which phones of politicians were allegedly tapped by IPS office Rashmi Shukla.
BJP workers staged protests and burnt copies of the police notice to Fadnavis in various parts of the state, including in Pune, Pandharpur (in Solapur district), Nagpur, Chandrapur, and Sangli. Here is all you need to know about the case.
What are the hacking allegations?
Phones of political leaders, including Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole, minister Bachchu Kadu, former MLA Ashish Deshmukh, former MP Sanjay Kakade and others, were tapped illegally by Shukla when she was the state intelligence chief, Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil had alleged last month.
Earlier, Fadnavis had cited a letter purportedly written by Shukla 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 that led to an uproar with leaders of the Shiv Sena-led ruling coalition alleging that Shukla tapped phones without permission.
What are the cases being investigated?
The case was registered at the cyber police station under the Official Secrets Act last year against unidentified persons for allegedly illegally tapping phones and leaking confidential documents. The complaint was lodged by the State Intelligence Department (SID). Shukla’s statement was recorded in the case.
The alleged tapping of phones had taken place when Shukla headed the SID. She is currently posted in Hyderabad as Additional Director General of the CRPF’s South Zone.
Recently, Shukla has been booked in two more cases. Less than a week after Pune Police registered an FIR against her, the Colaba police in Mumbai on late Wednesday booked her in another case of alleged phone tapping, in which it is alleged that she tapped phones of Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut and NCP’s Eknath Khadse.
What are the findings so far?
In mid-2021, the Maharashtra government had appointed a three-member committee headed by then DGP Sanjay Pandey – who is the current Mumbai Police commissioner – to probe allegations of phone tapping against Shukla.
During the inquiry, Shukla’s role was identified in tapping the phone calls of state Congress president Nana Patole, due to which an FIR was registered against her in Pune on February 25. Subsequently, the committee found her responsible for tapping phone calls of Sanjay Raut and Eknath Khadse, after which ACP (Special Branch) Rajiv Jain reported the matter to the Colaba police station and subsequently the case was registered.
What is the stand of BJP and Fadnavis?
Devendra Fadnavis has said that notices were served to him by the police because he had exposed the Maha Vikas Aghadi government of the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Congress. He said that the investigation should be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
He said earlier, "The state is trying to pressure me because I had exposed the scam of transfer in the state police force. I have more proofs with me, which I will hand over to the CBI only. I will cooperate with the Mumbai police in tomorrow's probe [today's questioning] as well."
Bharatiya Janata Party MLA and former state minister Ashish Shelar said, "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."
Are they above the law: Shiv Sena
Senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut questioned why some people - aimed at BJP and Fadnavis - considered themselves above the law. He said in a tweet, "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?"
(With PTI inputs)