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Phone tapping row: Virbhadra blames predecessor, Dhumal denies

Phone tapping row: Virbhadra blames predecessor, Dhumal deniesShimla, March 12 : Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh Tuesday accused his predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal in the illegal mass tapping of phones of politicians and bureaucrats when he was heading the erstwhile BJP government. Dhumal refuted the charges.

"While Dhumal was the chief minister, he was helped by then director general of police D. S. Manhas, his successor I. D. Bhandari and some other police officials," the chief minister told reporters here.

"Since Dhumal was also home minister (his) role was more certain," he added.

Virbadhra Singh said the phone tapping was never done during the Congress regimes in the past.

"It's only during Dhumal's tenure that such petty things were done. Even my rooms were bugged in Himachal Bhavans (state guest houses in Chandigarh and Delhi) when I was in opposition."

The chief minister said the government can't divulge the details of the phone tapping at this point in time. "The government will certainly register a criminal case and take action once the probe being conducted by the vigilance bureau is over."

Defending himself, Dhumal told reporters here that the Congress government was trying to take political mileage by misguiding people on the phone tapping issue.

He noted that even during Virbadra's tenure in the past, the conversation of then chief secretary and a politician was recorded.

"Earlier too a conversation of then chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife with some people was tapped. Does this mean that Virbhadra Singh as a chief minister was responsible for it," Dhumal asked.

The former chief minister said the government should conduct a probe through a sitting high court judge.

The computers in the CID and vigilance bureau offices were seized on the night of December 24-25 last year, hours before Virbhadra Singh assumed charge as chief minister.

The chief minister has already said action will be initiated against all those, including mobile companies, who were involved in the surveillance of phones during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime.

Last week he said 1,371 phones were tapped. Out of these, the home department gave permission to tap only 170 phones.

Bhandari, who was heading the CID when the illegal phone tapping took place, was removed last month.

Conversations of some BJP dissidents and journalists were also recorded. (IANS)