Mamata Banerjee sets up panel to probe Pegasus hacking claims

Our Bureau | Updated on July 26, 2021

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged that her phone was hacked by Israeli spyware Pegasus   -  PTI

Hopes it will spur others to do likewise; two retired judges will head the probe committee

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced a panel, to be headed by retired judges  Madan B Lokur and  Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, to probe  into allegations of phone hacking using Pegasus spyware.

With this, West Bengal has become the first State to order a probe since the snooping row broke-out earlier this month.

This comes days after the Trinamool Congress supremo went on record alleging that her phones had been hacked using an Israel-based firm’s spyware.

She also claimed  the phones of her nephew and MP Abhishek Banerjee, and poll strategist Prashant Kishor were hacked and  calls and meetings were being intercepted.

“To probe hacking and how it is being done we are appointing Justices MB Lokur and Jyotirmoy Bhattacharjee to head a committee. This small step, I hope, will be wake up others. We want the Justices to start as soon as possible. Many people from Bengal have been tapped,” Banerjee said.

Incidentally, State BJP unit President, Dilip Ghosh, had counter-alleged that it was Mamata Banerjee and her government who were using the spyware to snoop on political rivals, Opposition leaders and government officials.

According to political analysts, Banerjee had been looking to raise national issues in her bid to cement her place in national politics while emerge as the primary opposition to PM Narendra Modi and the BJP. In this context, the Pegasus snoopgate row has come as an opportunity that she intends to use to the hilt. “No wonder she was quick to announce a probe into the matter. She wants to play this up nationally and take the lead,” the analyst said requesting anonymity.

Probe ambit

As per the terms of reference of the commission it has to look into whether “any incidences of reported interception have occurred” and whether the Pegasus software was actually used or is being used for snooping.

The panel also has to find out which all “state and non-state” persons were involved in such interceptions; to enquire about the mechanism of the spyware that was being used; to find out who the victims were and their details; and to inquire the role of other authorities, if any – both from the state or outside – who are involved in case of interceptions.

If such reported interceptions are found to be true, the panel also needs to find out the reasons for such an act and if “right to privacy” has been breached or not.

The commission is expected to submit its report within six months, the order issued by the State Home Department said.

Published on July 26, 2021

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