Page last updated at 07:03 GMT, Monday, 26 April 2010 08:03 UK

India uproar over 'phone tapping'

BJP leader LK Advani: "Democracy must be defended"

Indian opposition parties disrupted parliament, asking questions about a report alleging the government secretly tapped the phones of top politicians.

Both the upper and lower houses were adjourned amid angry scenes. India's home minister denies the allegations.

But senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani has called for a response from the the prime minister.

Outlook magazine reported that the mobile phones of politicians, including a federal minister, were being tapped.

It claimed that the phones were tapped by the government using equipment from a federal intelligence agency.

'Total violation'

"We don't want the country to reach the point of emergency," Mr Advani said in parliament.

"There is total violation, we want a clear statement from the prime minister," he added.

The opposition is also calling for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the matter.

File picture of man using mobile phone in India
The report said phones of senior Indian politicians were tapped

"In the garb of tracking terror, the government is tracking politicians and even their cabinet ministers," senior BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said before the session began.

Mr Advani wrote in his blog that the report reminded him of the days of the state of emergency in India in the mid 1970s.

'Invasion of privacy'

He said existing laws - which permit phone tapping after permission from the interior ministry - should be scrapped.

"It should be replaced by a new legislation which forbids invasion of an ordinary citizen's privacy, but which formally recognises the right of the state to use the latest IT devices of interception to deal only with crime, subversion and espionage," Mr Advani said.

Outlook magazine said that the phones of a federal minister, Sharad Pawar, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Communist leader Prakash Karat and a senior politician of the ruling Congress party Digvijay Singh had been tapped.

Congress party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters that that it was "entirely possible that legitimate national security activity could have had an unintended inclusion of snatches of conversation by inadvertence and not by design."

"But these are explanations for the government to come up with. Till then let us not give advance threats of disruption," he said.

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