Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 25
Amid a brewing controversy over alleged snooping on around 300 activists, politicians, journalists and constitutional functionaries using Israeli spyware Pegasus, CPM Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas has moved the Supreme Court seeking a court-monitored probe into it.
Who paid for snooping?
Rs300 crore was spent for spying on 300 people in India. Who paid for it? Does our country have the capacity to spend so much on spying?
It’s the death of freedom. - Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena MP
Despite the serious nature of allegations, the Union Government had not cared to probe into it but “made only a hopeful hope that the time tested processes in our country were well-established to ensure that unauthorised surveillance did not occur,” Brittas said in a statement on Sunday. “Therefore, the queries were raised in the Indian Parliament with respect to this leakage. But the government has neither denied nor admitted the snooping by the spyware,” Brittas said, adding the allegations led to two inferences—either snooping was done by the government or by a foreign agency.
Maintaining that the snooping allegations had caused concern among a large section of people, he said the scandal would have a chilling effect on free speech and expression.
The government maintained that illegal surveillance was not possible with checks and balances in the country’s laws. Attempts were being made to malign the Indian democracy, it alleged.
IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told the Lok Sabha on July 19 that reports on alleged snooping published on the eve of the monsoon session of Parliament “cannot be a coincidence”. There was “no substance” behind the sensationalism, he said.
This is the second petition filed in the top court on the issue. Alleging that Pegasus snooping controversy was the biggest crime committed by the ruling party for political vested interests, Delhi-based advocate ML Sharma had on July 22 filed a PIL in the top court demanding a court-monitored SIT probe into it.
Sharma, who has filed dozens of PILs on controversial issues, claimed the snooping controversy was an attack on Indian democracy and involved issues concerning national security and judicial independence.
Made by the Israeli software firm NSO Group, Pegasus is said to be capable of infecting smartphones without users’ knowledge and accessing all their data.
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