Since the beginning of the monsoon session, both Houses have seen repeated disruptions as opposition parties have been demanding a Supreme Court-monitored probe. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said the Parliamentary panel on Information Technology will question government officials on allegations that Indian politicians, journalists were targeted using Pegasus spyware.
He asserted that it is the “most important issue” for many members of the committee. “Parliament is not functioning because of this issue. People are anxious to find out about this,” he added.
The 32-member Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, for which the listed agenda is ”Citizens’ data security and privacy”, according to a notification issued by Lok Sabha Secretariat. Earlier the senior Congress leader in an interview had told TNM that the government should answer whether an authorised interception was ordered.
The France-based media non-profit organisation Forbidden Stories had accessed a leaked database of 50,000 numbers who may have been targeted for surveillance by clients of NSO Group. Since the Israeli company says that the advanced spyware is only sold to “vetted governments”, it is safe to assume that these individuals were targets or potential targets of government or military agencies.
The panel, which has the maximum members from the ruling BJP, has summoned officials from the Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology and the Ministry of Home Affairs. An international media consortium has reported that over 300 verified Indian mobile phone numbers were on a list of potential targets for surveillance using Israeli firm NSO’s Pegasus spyware.
Opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, two union ministers — Prahlad Singh Patel and Railways and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, businessman Anil Ambani, a former CBI chief, and at least 40 journalists are on the list on the leaked database of NSO. It is, however, not established that all the phones were hacked.
Parliament is not functioning because of this issue. People are anxious to find out about this and we are definitely likely to have questions for the government officials attending the meeting. We are going to see what the answers are,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee meets PM Modi, calls for all-party meeting to discuss Pegasus issue. At the same time, TMC-led government in West Bengal has set up a Commission of Inquiry to probe allegations of snooping on politicians, officials and journalists.
Leaders from all parties have been maintaining that the entire opposition is united on this matter and they want a discussion on the Pegasus snooping issue in Parliament.