Pegasus report: Attempt to malign Indian democracy, says IT Minister Vaishnaw in Lok Sabha

The report says over 300 phone numbers of ministers, journos, activists, bizmen in India 'hacked'

Pegasus report: Attempt to malign Indian democracy, says IT Minister Vaishnaw in Lok Sabha

Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw speaks in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi, on July 19, 2021. — LSTV/PTI

New Delhi, July 19

IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on 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.

Also read: Over 300 phone numbers of ministers, journos, activists, bizmen in India 'hacked': Report

In a suo motu statement in the 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.

The statement assumes significance in the backdrop of Opposition parties creating a ruckus over the issue in both the Houses of Parliament on the first day of the monsoon session.

The Minister made this statement in response to media reports that spyware Pegasus was being used to conduct surveillance on several Indians, including political leaders, government officials and journalists.

“A highly sensational story was published by a web portal yesterday night.... The press report appeared a day before the monsoon session of the Parliament.

“This cannot be a coincidence. In the past similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports have no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties.... The press report of July 18, 2021, also appeared to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and a well-established institution,” the Minister said.

More than 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including of two serving ministers, over 40 journalists, three Opposition leaders and one sitting judge besides scores of business persons and activists in India could have been targeted for hacking through an Israeli spyware sold only to government agencies, an international media consortium reported on Sunday.

The government, however, had dismissed allegations of any kind of surveillance on its part on specific people, saying it “has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever”. PTI

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