New Delhi : Defence Minister A.K. Antony Friday denied his office was bugged, describing reports earlier in the day as "absolutely baseless. The report about bugging is absolutely baseless. There was nothing like that," Antony told reporters here, when asked to respond to the reports.
"The defence ministry is a sensitive ministry. These kind of checks are routine, natural and ongoing thing. This time also it was routine," he added. Earlier, the government vehemently denied Antony's office was bugged, but clarified that routine security sweeps were done at his office and nothing was found during such checks.
"Reports of 'bugging' in the South Block in a section of the media is, hereby, denied," defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said in an official statement here. "Routine checks are conducted in the offices of the defence minister and other officers in South Block. Nothing has been found in these checks," Kar said.
Reports had suggested that on Feb 16, during a routine check by military intelligence personnel at Antony's office in Room Number 104 on the first floor of South Block, "a discrepancy" was found. This resulted in the defence ministry officials asking the military intelligence men to vacate the room and the home ministry's help was sought to carry out a counter-sweep of the room.
It was suggested that the Intelligence Bureau men were called to conduct the counter-checks. The report had also claimed that the "needle of suspicion pointed at the army" for the bugging. This prompted the army headquarters to term the report "totally false" and "fictitious".
The army, in an SMS, said: "The report that has appeared regarding the bug in the defence minister's office is totally false. The article is fictitious."
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party Friday dubbed the reports of bugging of Antony's office as a "serious" and "unfortunate" matter and demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clarify the issue.
Talking to reporters here, party president Nitin Gadkari said it was "unfortunate" that such incident was recurring, referring to the earlier episode of the reported bugging at Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's office. "After such an incident was reported earlier, the prime minister had intervened, but this is happening again and again. I
t is up to the prime minister, he should take serious note of it and stop such happenings. Things like tapping opposition leaders' phones is not good for our democracy," Gadkari said.
Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, meanwhile, said the matter should be thoroughly probed and wondered what the reasons were for spying on the cabinet minister.
"The defence minister is responsible for defending our borders but his own office borders are not secure. The reports of the bugging of his office is a matter of serious concern," he said, also citing the earlier reports about bugging of the finance minister's office.