Amid reports of opposition leaders being listed for surveillance, the Congress party mulled over parliamentary recourses while several MPs demanded a discussion on the subject.
During a press conference yesterday, the Indian National Congress said that it will keep raising the Pegasus spyware issue in Parliament and will explore all options for an investigation.
The press conference followed a day of chaotic proceedings in both houses of Parliament, after an international consortium of 80 journalists from 17 media organisations in 10 countries released investigations about a leaked database of selected targets for surveillance using the Israeli spyware Pegasus.
Why this matters? Subsequent analysis revealed that at least 300 Indians were listed as Pegasus targets including INC President Rahul Gandhi as well as other opposition leaders, lawyers, bureaucrats, activists, journalists, and officials in the Election Commission and Supreme Court. At least 7 journalists and political strategist Prashant Kishore, the forensic analysis showed, were successfully targeted by the spyware.
The spyware once successfully deployed can reportedly access the contents of any Android or Apple iPhone. Pegasus’ capabilities include accessing-
- WhatsApp chats
- GPS data
- Contacts book
- Photos and videos
- Activate microphone
- Activate camera
- Record calls
What the Congress plans to do
During the press conference, Congress spokesperson Randeep S. Surjewala said that the party will involve all members of the opposition in its demands for an investigation. This, he said, can involve legal or parliamentary recourses depending on what senior Congress leaders and other opposition leaders decide.
Mallikarjun Kharge, senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, who was also at the Press Conference said that they will continue to debate on it right now as it has only been two days and new information (on the Pegasus controversy) is still emerging.
Some of the Parliamentary recourses available to the opposition include-
- An investigation by a Parliamentary Standing Committee
- The constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into the matter.
Opposition MPs and their reactions
- Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MP and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology member Ranjith Reddy told MediaNama that the Pegasus spyware issue will be taken up during the next meeting of the committee.
- Elamaram Kareem, CPI(M) floor leader in Rajya Sabha, and Congress MP KC Venugopal have submitted a notice under Rule 267 to suspend Parliamentary business and discuss in the Rajya Sabha, the alleged spying by the government on opposition party leaders, journalists, judges, and even a Union minister, using Pegasus spyware.
- AAP MP Sanjay Singh had also reportedly submitted a notice yesterday seeking suspension of the pre-scheduled parliamentary business for discussing the Pegasus spyware issue in the Rajya Sabha.
- Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi has reportedly moved a Motion of Adjournment of the business of the Upper House to discuss the Pegasus row
- Congress MP Manickam Tagore has submitted a notice in Lok Sabha on the Pegasus issue this morning.
- Congress MP Hibi Eden today submitted an adjournment notice in Lok Sabha to discuss the Pegasus issue
- CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam had reportedly given a suspension of business notice under rule 267 over revelations on the Pegasus spyware yesterday.
Statements from political targets
- Rahul Gandhi, Former President, Indian National Congress: Gandhi told The Wire, “Targeted surveillance of the type you describe whether in regard to me, other leaders of the opposition or indeed any law-abiding citizen of India is illegal and deplorable. If your information is correct, the scale and nature of surveillance you describe goes beyond an attack on the privacy of individuals. It is an attack on the democratic foundations of our country. It must be thoroughly investigated and those responsible be identified and punished.” Gandhi said that he suspected such interception attempts and would frequently change his number and devices to thwart interception.
- Prashant Kishor, Political Consultant: “If the use of such methods during Bengal elections are taken as test case then it is quite clear that such things hardly have any impact on the electoral outcome. Having said so, there is no denying that those who would did so were looking to take undue advantage of their position of power with the help of illegal snooping,” Kishor told The Wire.
More reading on Pegasus
- Members Of Parliament React To Pegasus Spyware Controversy Amidst Monsoon Session
- IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw Addresses Parliament On Pegasus Spyware; Doesn’t Deny Usage
- ‘Illegal And Deplorable’: How Pegasus Spyware Targets In India Are Reacting
- A Guide To The NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware In India