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Phone tapping: Himachal's top police official grilled

By Ians

Shimla, Jan 23: Himachal Pradesh's senior-most Indian Police Services officer I.D. Bhandari was grilled for over two hours over tapping phones of many politicians and government officials, an official said here Thursday.

Bhandari, who was heading the crime investigation department (CID) when the illegal phone tapping took place during the previous BJP regime, appeared before the state Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau here for the first time Wednesday.

"Questions relating to tapping of phones and the motive behind recording the conversations were asked," a police official told IANS.

A first information report (FIR) relating to the tapping of over 1,300 telephones was registered June 26 last year. But so far no one has been named in the FIR.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said recently the inquiry into the phone tapping is near completion and the challan (registration) will be filed soon in the court.

Earlier, the vigilance bureau sent a questionnaire to then director general of police D.S. Manhas.

"We got the reply. If needed, Manhas will also be summoned," said the investigating official, who didn't wish to be identified.

The present Congress government has accused the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led Bharatiya Janata Party government of tapping certain telephone numbers illegally through the criminal investigation and vigilance departments.

Dhumal, however, has refuted the charges.

Virbhadra Singh also accused the previous government of tapping his phones.

The total number of phones tapped, mainly of Congress leaders, government functionaries and journalists in violation of the Indian Telegraph Act, was over 1,300, said officials.

Of these, the home department had granted permission to tap only 170 phones, they said.

Virbhadra Singh also accused the previous government of tapping his phones and bugging his rooms.

"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 alleged.

Bhandari, who belongs to the 1982 Indian Police Service cadre and is currently posted as Director General of Home Guards and Fire Services, was removed from the top post in February last year.


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