PM asks BJP MPs to expose opposition parties as Parliament remains stalled; Mamata for all-party meet on Pegasus row
With Parliament proceedings stalled for the sixth day over the Pegasus spying row and farmers' issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reported to have asked BJP MPs on Tuesday to expose the opposition parties as the government is ready for discussions on all issues but they are not letting the two Houses to function.
According to BJP sources, Prime Minister Modi said this to his party MPs in his address to the BJP parliamentary party meeting. The standoff between the government and the opposition in Parliament has showed no signs of easing after it erupted on the opening day of the Monsoon session on July 19.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the prime minister should convene an all-party meet on the Pegasus row and decide on a Supreme Court-led probe even as seven opposition parties sought President Ram Nath Kovind's intervention to direct the government to discuss the phone-hacking scandal and farmers' issues in Parliament.
Veteran journalists N Ram and Sashi Kumar, meanwhile, moved the Supreme Court seeking an independent probe by its sitting or retired judge into reports of government agencies using Israeli spyware Pegasus to allegedly snoop on eminent citizens, politicians and scribes.
The petition seeks investigation into the hacking of phones using the Pegasus spyware, saying it represented an attempt by agencies and organisations to muzzle and chill the exercise of free speech and expression of dissent in India.
It also sought a direction to the Centre to disclose if the government or any of its agencies obtained licence for Pegasus spyware and used it, either directly or indirectly, to conduct surveillance in any manner.
According to the latest list of names released by news portal The Wire, the potential targets of Pegasus included former chairman of Jet Airways Naresh Goyal, SpiceJet managing director Ajay Singh and the Essar Group's Prashant Ruia.
The leaked list that has been analysed by media partners of the Pegasus Project consortium reporting on the issue also includes numbers belonging to Rajeshwar Singh, a senior Enforcement Directorate officer, and V K Jain, a former IAS officer who worked as a personal assistant to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Protests by unrelenting opposition members over the Pegasus row and the three contentious farm laws again disrupted proceedings in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha leading to multiple adjournments as they demanded discussions on these issues.
After a meeting with the prime minister, Chief Minister Banerjee refused to say whether the snooping row came up for discussions but told reporters that he should convene an all-party meet on the issue and decide on a Supreme Court-led probe.
West Bengal on Monday set up a two-member Commission of Inquiry to probe allegations of snooping on politicians, officials and journalists in the first move by a state seen as an attempt by Chief Minister Banerjee to put pressure on the Centre over the Pegasus scandal for wider investigations.
MPs belonging to seven opposition parties wrote to President Kovind seeking his intervention to direct the government to discuss farmers' issues and Pegasus spyware report in the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament. The session concludes on August 13.
''We MPs urge you to intervene personally and direct the government to discuss both issues during the ongoing parliament session in the spirit of a healthy democracy,'' the parties said in their letter to the President.
The MPs also sought an appointment with the President to apprise him of ''two disturbing developments'' including the complete stonewalling of demands of the peasantry to repeal the three agricultural laws as well as use of Pegasus to tape telephones of politicians, journalists and activists.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, who is the Chairman of the Parliamentary committee on Information Technology(IT), said the panel will question government officials on allegations linked to the Pegasus spyware. Tharoor said the spyware row is the ''most important issue'' for many members.
The 32-member Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, for which the listed agenda is ''Citizens' data security and privacy'', according to a notification issued by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.
''The subject of Citizens Data Privacy and Security is an approved agenda item of the committee and it was under this item that we had earlier discussed the Pegasus issue in November-December last year. So it's a continuing issue.
''There would be other questions as well, as this is not necessarily the only issue. But, for many of us in the committee this is perhaps the most important issue,'' Tharoor told PTI ahead of the panel's meeting.
Another senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the government would brazen out the allegations of snooping until it is known who the ''Indian client'' of Israeli firm NSO Group's Pegasus spyware was and that name would be revealed soon.
Last week, an international media consortium reported that over 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including those of two ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders besides scores of business persons and activists in India, could have been targeted for hacking through the Pegasus spyware.
The government has denied all Opposition allegations in the matter.
''Who was the 'Indian client'? Was it the government of India? Was it an agency of the government? Was it a private entity?'' Chidambaram asked in a tweet.
''I am certain the client's name will be revealed soon. Until then, I suppose the government will brazen out the allegations of snooping,'' he said.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)