Centre jeopardising national security by snooping in phones using Pegasus software, says Kapil Sibal

·4-min read
Congress leader Kapil Sibal. (Photo/ ANI)
Congress leader Kapil Sibal. (Photo/ ANI)

New Delhi [India], July 20 (ANI): Amid the row over the alleged illegal surveillance of journalists using Pegasus software, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said that snooping violates multiple laws of the country and claimed that the Centre is jeopardising the national security.

He also said that the Supreme Court must investigate the illegal surveillance of journalists using Pegasus spyware and the proceedings should be held in-camera.

Speaking to the media persons here on Tuesday, Sibal said, "The government talks about private data protection, but this is private data collection. You are collecting the private data of the people through Pegasus then this data is with Isreal. This is a national security threat."

He asked the reporters, "Our Constitution says the government should protect national security, but what if our government jeopardised national security?"

"If this data reaches other nations, if it is accessed by NSO technologists, then it becomes a threat to national security. For now, only these lists have come. It is possible that in the coming days, it will be revealed that they have intercepted other people too," the Congress leader said.

The former Union minister said such snooping is illegal at multiple levels. It can violate multiple cyber laws, the Official Secrets Act, the fundamental right to privacy, and IT laws.

"Ministers do not want to tell reality to MPs and countrymen. Union Home Minister should tell that they have not used this (Pegasus) but neither he admitted nor rejected it. The question arises - who used it as government and its agencies did not. Truth should be revealed," he said.

Further taking a jibe at the Home Minister Amit Shah's 'aap chronology samajhiye' barb against him and said, "Home Minister says -- to understand chronology. I want to tell Amit Shah that you should understand the chronology as it was used between 2017 and 2019.

"People have often associated this phrase with me in a lighter vein but today I want to seriously say - the timing of the selective leaks, the disruptions...Aap Chronology Samajhiye! This is a report by the disrupters for the obstructers. Disrupters are global organisations that do not like India to progress. Obstructers are political players in India who do not want India to progress. People of India are good at understanding this chronology and connection," said Home Minister Amit Shah had said earlier.

"Supreme Court should investigate this and the proceedings should be held in-camera. A white paper should be presented in the Parliament and the minister should tell clearly that government or any other agency used Pegasus here or not," Sibal added.

Congress party on Monday demanded an independent probe into the alleged illegal surveillance of journalists using Pegasus spyware and sought the resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The Bharatiya Janata Party had outrightly rejected the allegations.

"BJP strongly refutes, condemns the baseless and bereft of political propriety comments leveled by Congress against the BJP. It is a new low for a party that has ruled India for more than 50 years," BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday.

The names of over 40 Indian journalists appeared on the leaked list of potential targets for surveillance by an unidentified agency using Pegasus spyware, according to a report published in The Wire on Sunday.

According to the report, the journalists who were targeted work for some news organisations in the country including Hindustan Times, The Hindu, India Today, Indian Express and Network18. Many of them cover matters related to Defence, Home Ministry, Election Commission and Kashmir among others.

However, Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw 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.

Speaking in Lok Sabha, Vaishnaw said that it can't be a coincidence that the report appeared a day before the commencement of the monsoon session of Parliament.

The Minister said that any form of illegal surveillance isn't possible with "checks and balances in our laws and robust institutions."

"In India, there's a well-established procedure through which lawful interception of electronic communication is carried out for purpose of national security. Requests for lawful interceptions of electronic communication are made as per relevant rules under provisions of Sec 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and Sec 69 of Information Technology Act 2000. Each case of interception is approved by the competent authority," he assured.

Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that the government was listening to 'bedroom conversations' and said that this is treason. (ANI)

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