New Delhi [India], July 19 (ANI): 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.
This comes after the Congress party demanded an independent probe into the alleged illegal surveillance of journalists using Pegasus spyware and sought the resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Addressing a press conference, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, questioned the credentials of those behind the story and said that name of 'The Wire' (online portal) has emerged and many of their stories had been found to be wrong earlier.
"Name of 'The Wire' (online portal) has also emerged. But is it not true that many of their stories have been found to be wrong? Can we deny that bodies like Amnesty had a declared anti-India agenda in many ways? They withdrew from India when we asked them about their foreign funding as per law." Prasad said.
"Those who have broken the story themselves did not claim that a presence of a particular number in the database does not confirm that it is infected with Pegasus. It is important to reveal all these facts in front of the nation," the BJP leader said.
He also brushed aside a question on the Congress's demands for Home Minister Amit Shah's resignation including a probe against the Prime Minister, and accused the opposition party of hitting a 'new low' in making baseless allegations in a manner that was bereft of any political propriety.
"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," Prasad said.
"Was it planned to break Pegasus story before Monsoon session to create a new atmosphere? Was it a pre-planned strategy by some people to bring it before the monsoon session? Why these kinds of questions are raised at the time of important events? Riots were incited during Trump's visit, Pegasus story was circulated during 2019 polls and again it is in the news when Parliament is in session and when Congress is in a very bad situation," he further said.
"Our IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw confirmed today that for lawful interceptions of a phone can only be made as per relevant rules under provisions of Section 5 of Indian Telegraph Act along with the permission of Home Secretary of the centre or Home Secretary of the state," he added.
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)