New Delhi: A parliamentary standing committee, chaired by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, will question officials of the Ministry of Information and Technology and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in connection with the case of alleged illegal surveillance of journalists and political leaders using the Israeli Pegasus software.
A meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has been called on July 28. Officials of the Ministry of Information Technology, Home and Communications have been summoned to the meeting.
Shashi Tharoor-led Parliamentary Committee to hold a meeting on July 28, on the subject of ‘Citizens data security and privacy’. Members from the Ministry of IT and Home Ministry to be present.
— ANI (@ANI) July 21, 2021
The agenda for the meeting is `Evidence of the representatives of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Communication (Department of Telecommunications) on the subject of `Citizens` data security and privacy`.
The crucial meeting is scheduled to begin at 4 PM. Since the Pegasus snooping case came to light through a report by a leading publication on Sunday, several opposition leaders have demanded an independent probe into the matter.
The report on the “Pegasus project” has revealed that the numbers of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, other opposition politicians, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, two union ministers, Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee and some 40 journalists were selected as potential targets of snooping. However, there is no evidence that all numbers found on a leaked database were hacked.
Interestingly, Tharoor, who is the Congress MP from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, had said that an independent investigation is absolutely indispensable in the Pegasus spyware controversy.
“So the question that comes up is who has done it so if the government of India did it that is very bad, if somebody’s not authorized by the government of India did it that’s even worse. And if a foreign government say China or Pakistan snooped on our people then, national security demands that our government should want to investigate and this is why I feel that an independent investigation is absolutely indispensable,” Tharoor had said.
The names of over 40 Indian journalists and politicians appeared on the leaked list of potential targets for surveillance by an unidentified agency using Pegasus spyware, according to the report.
According to the report, several Indian journalists are among those who were reportedly targeted. Many of them cover matters related to Defence, Home Ministry, Election Commission and Kashmir among others.
However, Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had on Monday said there is ‘no substance’ in the media report regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp, adding that the report was an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions.
On July 19, the Bharatiya Janata Party hit out at the Congress for accusing the government of its role in the alleged illegal surveillance of journalists using Pegasus spyware and said that there is not a shred of evidence that shows the linkage of the government or the BJP.
Outrightly rejecting the allegations, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad termed it as a pre-planned strategy by some to raise the Pegasus story just before the Monsoon session of the Parliament.