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Pegasus row: Tharoor-led House panel to start probe

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 22, 2021

Shashi Tharoor

Summons Home Ministry officials on July 28

Amid Opposition’s demand for a judicial probe into the reports of tapping of phones of top politicians, Army officers, judges and journalists using the Pegasus spyware, a Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by Shashi Tharoor, has decided to examine the matter. The panel has summoned officials of the Union Home Ministry on July 28 to take their views on the subject ‘Citizens data security and privacy’.

Sources in the Standing Committee told BusinessLine that it had decided to study the new paradigm of citizens’ privacy in the backdrop of a recent Supreme Court verdict and complaints of snooping. “It has nothing to do with the new controversy. But we can include this issue to when we discuss citizens’ privacy,” a panel member said.

The controversy follows revelations of use of an Israeli company, NSO’s Pegasus spyware by various countries to snoop on key people. In India, more than a thousand phones are said to be under watch. The names include politicians such as Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee. The Opposition is demanding a discussion on the matter in both the Houses. The Congress has moved adjournment motions in both the Houses for Thursday demanding a discussion on Pegasus, suspending all other businesses.

Mamata claims she, and associates are victims of Pegasus surveillance

Opposition flays BJP

Simultaneously, outside the House, the Opposition stepped up the attack against the BJP. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee urged the Opposition to form a joint front against the BJP. She is likely to come to Delhi next week to meet leaders of various parties.

The Congress maintained that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah must be held accountable for what it called “the manner in which they have desecrated the fabric of country’s democracy”. The party said the revelations prove that the BJP used spyware to topple elected State governments.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the reports point to a brazen attack on India’s secular democratic constitutional order. “Toppling democratically elected govenments, rejecting people’s mandate by using surveillance spyware is abominable. The Modi government must come clean on its engagement with Israeli company NSO. Institute a JPC inquiry now,” he said.

How does the Pegasus spyware work, and is my phone at risk?

Published on July 21, 2021

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