Attempt to malign democracy, its institutions: IT Minister

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 22, 2021

Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Minister for Communications and IT

‘When seen through the prism of logic, it emerges that there is no substance behind this sensationalism’

Reiterating its earlier stand on the snooping charge, the government on Thursday said that the media reports on Pegasus are attempts to malign the Indian Democracy and its well-established institutions.

“The press reports have appeared a day before the Monsoon session of Parliament. This cannot be a coincidence. In the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including in the Supreme Court. The press reports of July 18, 2021 also appear to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well established institutions,” Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Minister for Communications and IT said in the Rajya Sabha. He said the basis of the report is that there is a consortium which has got access to a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers. The allegation is that individuals linked to these phone numbers were being spied upon.

‘Need technical analysis’

“However, the report says that: The presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack. Without subjecting a phone to this technical analysis, it is not possible to conclusively state whether it witnessed an attack attempt or was successfully compromised,” the Minister quoted the news report as saying.

“Therefore, the report itself clarifies that presence of a number does not amount to snooping…when we look at this issue through the prism of logic, it clearly emerges that there is no substance behind this sensationalism,” he further said.

‘Well established system’

The Minister mentioned that NSO has also clearly rubbished the claims in the report. “In India, there is a well established procedure through which lawful interception of electronic communication is carried out for the purpose of national security, particularly on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety, by agencies at the Centre and States.”

Each case of interception or monitoring is approved by the competent authority. These powers are also available to the competent authority in the State governments as per IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009, Vaishnaw said.

The Rajya Sabha got adjourned for the day without transacting any major business over the Opposition’s demand to hold a discussion on Pegasus. However, Vaishnaw tabled his statement on the matter in the House, while the Opposition members stormed to the Well of the House shouting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

They asked the Centre to stop snooping on Constitutional offices and leaders of political parties.

Published on July 22, 2021

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