DOUBLESPEAK ON PRANAB'S BUGGING
NEW DELHI: The government exhibited a doublespeak on the suspected bugging of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's office that prompted him to write to the Prime Minister for a probe.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) says it is a matter of State's security that can not be divulged while S S Palanimanickam, a junior minister in the Finance Ministry, finds no such problem in reeling out the information in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on Friday.
The PMO's reply refusing the information sought by a local daily through a RTI (right to information) application landed on its desk on the very day Palanimanickam gave a detailed reply.
The refusal only gave birth to suspicion that Mukherjee's office was really bugged and the government is not ready to part any information on it as it may relate to the leakage of some State secrets through the listening devices planted in the office.
More honest is Palanimanickam to debunk any such doubts as he told the House that there was no bugging and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) that probed at the PM's instance found just sticky substance "comparable with those of chewing gum." The adhesives were found stuck at 16 places in the offices of Mukherjee, his private secretary and his adviser.
The PMO's reply, however, says: "The requested information is related to the security of the State and disclosure thereof is, therefore, denied under Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act, 2005." The particular section says the government shall be under no obligation to give information to any citizen, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with a foreign state or lead to the incitement of an offence."
BJP Secretary Dr Kirit Somaiya was also initially refused information under this section by the Finance Ministry, but he got a revised reply from the Finance Ministry's central public relation officer furnishing the information sought under RTI Act, clarifying that "no (bugging) devices were detected during regular screening undertaken in all concerned premises."
The daily had sought in its RTI application filed on July 5 a copies of Mukherjee's letter to the PM, the latter's response and details of the final report of the probe ordered by the Prime Minister.