Updated: October 27, 2021 5:29:11 pm
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said that he was happy with the Supreme Court’s decision to order an independent probe into the Pegasus issue and it was a “big step” towards getting to “the truth”.
“I hope they (Supreme Court) will do their job and provide justice. But this is a deeper problem. If the Prime Minister is using this as a personal tool…if the data is arriving on the Prime Minister’s desk, then it is totally criminal…We will follow it up,” he said, while claiming that the government of Karnataka “was toppled using Pegasus spyware”.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a committee comprising three technical members and supervised by its retired judge Justice R V Raveendran to conduct a “thorough inquiry” into allegations of use of Pegasus software for unauthorised surveillance.
He said the Congress would continue to raise the issue in Parliament seeking answers from the government as tapping of constitutional functionaries and opposition leaders was a “criminal act” and “an illegal action”. He added that only the Prime Minister or the Home Minister could have authorised tapping of phones using the Pegasus software.
Gandhi said the Congress had been asking the government three questions—who had authorised the use of Pegasus spyware, who all were targeted, and whether any other country was also in possession of the Pegasus data. But the government has not given a reply. “Pegasus is an attempt to crush Indian democracy. It is an attempt to make sure that the vibrancy of the democracy, the conversations that take place in a democracy are crushed and people are controlled,” he said.
“There is the institution of Parliament where we will raise this again and we will try to have a debate in Parliament. I am pretty sure that the BJP will not like that debate. So, they will make sure that that debate is stalled. But we will try to hold that debate,” he said.
He said central institutions of India were attacked using Pegasus. “Pegasus is, of course, a particularly nasty and subversive way of doing it. It is a way basically to control the politics of the country…to frighten people, to blackmail them into not doing what they are supposed to do. Not allowing the democratic process to work,” he said.
Gandhi said the government is not coming up with satisfactory answers because it has something to hide. “It may have done something illegal,” he said.
The Left parties, too, welcomed the Supreme Court decision. Attacking the government, the CPM said the “government had refused to give a categorical answer to the Supreme Court whether any State agency used Pegasus spyware or not.”
“This evasive stand, itself, was an admission of their complicity in the matter. It was the same obduracy that saw the entire monsoon session of Parliament getting stalled. Since the Court has observed that national security cannot be the cover to deny a concrete response, it is incumbent upon the government to give a categorical reply,” the CPM said in a statement.
It said the committee should invite opinions from concerned persons to present their views. “It should also invite foreign experts to testify as this spyware has international ramifications,” it added.
Arguing that the Supreme Court order is a reprimand to the government, the CPI pointed out that the Chief Justice of India in the order has specifically underlined the fact that there has been no specific denial by the Centre and also observed that the state cannot get a free pass every time by raising national security concerns.
“The CJI also made it clear that while we live in the era of information and recognise technology is important, we have to accept that it is equally important to safeguard the right to privacy, which is important for all citizens. The CJI also underlined that it is undeniable that under surveillance it affects the right and freedom of people and how it is exercised…The CPI feels that its stand on the illegal snooping issue demanding a thorough probe is vindicated,” the CPI said in a statement.
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