Pegasus issue: TMC says will continue to disrupt Parl till govt comes clean on snooping charges

·2-min read

New Delhi, Jul 20 (PTI) The Trinamool Congress Tuesday said it will continue to disrupt Parliament proceedings till the government comes clean on the charges of snooping and surveillance using the Pegasus spyware and discusses it in both Houses.

The party said it will, however, not halt any discussion on the coronavirus situation or aspects related to it.

'This (Pegasus spyware) is a serious issue and the TMC will not compromise on it. We will not let either House run till this government comes clean on the charges of snooping and surveillance. The government has spent millions to hack into phones at a time when the country is dealing with a pandemic,' TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien said.

An international media consortium reported Sunday that over 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including of two ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders and one sitting judge besides scores of businesspersons and activists in India could have been targeted for hacking through the spyware.

Opposition members raised uproar in both houses and demanded a thorough probe into the charges of snooping on journalists, politicians, ministers, judges and others using the Israeli spyware.

One of those listed as being allegedly snooped upon is (TMC) national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee.

TMC Lok Sabha MP Mahua Moitra said, 'We are saying on record that the IT minister lied on the floor of the House. We just want the PM, HM and the IT minister to answer if India is a client of NSO (Israeli firm that makes the Pegasus spyware) or not? We have a list of questions for the government and we will not allow Parliament to run unless these questions are answered.' Moitra then listed some questions -- has any department under the government of India purchased Pegasus? Is the spyware being used currently? Which agency has requisitioned this data and where is it being retained? IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had Monday dismissed media reports on the use of Pegasus software to snoop on Indians, saying the allegations levelled just ahead of the Monsoon session of Parliament are aimed at maligning Indian democracy.

In a suo motu statement in Lok Sabha, Vaishnaw said that with several checks and balances being in place, 'any sort of illegal surveillance' by unauthorised persons is not possible in India.

On the Union health secretary's scheduled briefing to all parties on Covid this evening, O'Brien said TMC floor leaders will attend the presentation as it does not want to politicise the issue.

The Congress has announced that it will boycott the presentation. PTI ASG ASG TIR TIR

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