The Supreme Court on Monday said there was “no privacy left for anybody” while hearing the case of alleged phone tapping of Indian Police Service officer Mukesh Gupta by the Chhattisgarh government, PTI reported. The senior police official has alleged that the Bhupesh Baghel-led administration was targeting him and his family.
“What is happening in this country?” the bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Indira Banerjee asked, according to Bar and Bench. “Who ordered this phone tapping?” The bench asked the state authorities to submit a detailed affidavit clarifying who ordered the surveillance and the reasons behind it. In October, the top court had asked the state police to refrain from arresting or “unduly harassing” the senior police official, reported The Indian Express.
The Supreme Court also objected to a separate first information report that had been filed against a lawyer representing Gupta. It stayed the inquiry against Ravi Sharma, and said that no coercive measures should be taken against him until further orders, according to PTI.
Counsel Mahesh Jethmalani was directed not to politicise the matter by including the chief minister’s name in the parties involved. It ordered that Baghel’s name be removed from the memo of respondents in the plea.
On February 9, two IPS officers, including Gupta who was then special deputy general of police, from Chhattisgarh were suspended after the Economic Offences Wing registered a report against them for alleged criminal conspiracy. They were also accused of illegally tapping phones during the Civil Supplies Corporation scam investigations in 2015. The other officer who was suspended was Rajnesh Singh, who was the superintendent of police in Narayanpur at that time.
Gupta and Singh were charged with providing false evidence and tampering with the proof, and forgery, among other sections of the Indian Penal Code, according to NDTV. Gupta has refuted all the allegations, and claimed the inquiry was done according to the law.
The court had through an interim order on September 2 stayed three FIRS against Gupta filed by the state. It had also sent a notice to the state government and the chief minister.
The Supreme Court’s remarks came on the backdrop of a controversy on the alleged WhatsApp hacking of at least two dozen individuals. So far, 22 individuals, including human rights activists, scholars and journalists, have confirmed to Scroll.in that they were targeted by the spyware on the messaging platform WhatsApp. Some of them suggested that Indian government agencies may have been involved in the surveillance, as they were told by a Canada-based cyber security group that is assisting WhatsApp in investigating the spyware attack.
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