After SC order on Pegasus, Rahul Gandhi says Oppn's stand vindicated, steps up attack on govt

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 27-10-2021 21:12 IST | Created: 27-10-2021 21:12 IST
After SC order on Pegasus, Rahul Gandhi says Oppn's stand vindicated, steps up attack on govt
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The ''use'' of Israeli spyware Pegasus was an attempt to crush Indian democracy and the appointment of a three-member panel of cyber experts by the Supreme Court to probe the snooping allegations is a ''big step'' that will help bring out the truth, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference here after the Supreme Court hearing, Gandhi fired a fresh salvo at the Modi government as he contended that only the prime minister or the home minister could have ordered the use of Pegasus spyware and said that if the PM was ''using this as a personal tool'', then it is ''totally criminal''.

''He is not above the nation. He is not above the institutions,'' the Congress leader said.

Gandhi said the Supreme Court's observations on Wednesday ''basically supported'' what the opposition parties had been saying and they will again raise the issue in Parliament demanding a debate on it.

The opposition had disrupted proceedings during the last monsoon session with vociferous protests over the Pegasus issue after an international investigative consortium claimed that many Indian ministers, politicians, activists, businessmen and journalists were potentially targeted by the Israeli company NSO Group’s phone hacking software.

In a suo motu statement in Parliament, IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had dismissed the reports, saying that with several checks and balances being in place, “any sort of illegal surveillance” by unauthorised persons is not possible in India. He had said the allegations levelled just ahead of the monsoon session are aimed at maligning Indian democracy.

Gandhi on Wednesday said that they had raised the Pegasus issue during the last Parliament session ''because we felt that it was an attack on the democratic structure, on the foundations of our nation''.

''We had jointly blocked Parliament. And today the Supreme Court has given its opinion and basically supported what we were saying,'' the former Congress chief said.

''We were asking three basic questions -- who authorised Pegasus, which agency, which person authorised Pegasus as we all know Pegasus cannot be bought by a private individual, it has to be bought by a government. ''The second question was who was it used against and the final thing was, did any other country have access to information of our people,'' he said and asked whether this data was kept outside the country or not.

No answers were given to these questions, Gandhi alleged.

''We welcome the Supreme Court order in the Pegasus matter. It is not a matter of politics – it is an attack on the democratic structure of the country, on the people and their freedom.

''Only two people can direct this attack and when the truth comes out they will have no answers,'' the Congress leader later said in a tweet in Hindi.

He also posted a picture on Instagram and asked ''who's watching'' using Pegasus. He gave Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, ED/CBI and the BJP as choices for the answer.

The Pegasus is an ''attempt to crush Indian democracy and make sure that the vibrancy of the democracy, the conversation that takes place in a democracy are crushed and the people are controlled'', Gandhi told reporters. He said it is a ''big step that the Supreme Court has said that they are going to look into this matter. I am confident that we will get the truth out of this''.

Responding to a question on whether he has confidence in the SC probe, Gandhi said he hoped the Supreme Court will do its job and provide justice.

Asked whether he would still demand for a JPC probe, he said since the matter is in the hands of the highest court, ''we have to respect that''.

Gandhi also claimed that the Congress government in Karnataka was toppled using the Pegasus spyware and central institutions of the country were being ''attacked'' using the spyware. ''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 that is totally criminal, and we will make sure that it is followed up,'' he said.

He also noted that if data of Indians is being handed to a foreign country it is an attack on the national security of this country.

''So, there is no question of hiding behind national security. They are attacking national security.'' ''This is not just a political matter, this is an existential matter for the country,'' he said adding that the Congress is happy that the Supreme Court has accepted to look into this.

''We will raise this again and we will try to have a debate in Parliament. I am sure the BJP will not like that debate so they will make sure that debate is stalled but we will try to hold that debate and then we will tell the people of India that the idea of India is being attacked,'' he said.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed a three-member panel of cyber experts to probe the alleged use of Pegasus for surveillance of certain people in India, saying every citizen needs protection against privacy violation.

Finding material that ''prima facie merits consideration'', a bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli declined to allow the Centre to appoint an expert panel of its own, saying such a course would violate the settled judicial principle against bias.

Three experts on cyber security, digital forensics, networks and hardware were roped in by the Supreme Court to ''enquire, investigate and determine'' whether Pegasus spyware was used for snooping on citizens and their probe would be monitored by former apex court judge R V Raveendran.

The experts -- Naveen Kumar Chaudhary, Prabaharan P and Ashwin Anil Gumaste -- would report to Justice Raveendran. The BJP on Wednesday asserted that the SC direction is in line with the government's affidavit on the matter.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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