The Pegasus controversy has continued to disrupt the proceedings of both houses with the Opposition demanding a debate and impartial probe into the matter. “Ministry of Defence has not had any transaction with NSO Group Technologies,” said Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt in a written reply to a question by CPI(M) Rajya Sabha MP Dr. V. Sivadasan. As part of the Pegasus Project, a consortium of 17 news organisations led by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, accessed a leaked database containing more than 50,000 phone numbers that had been identified as potential targets of surveillance via Pegasus spyware. Out of this, 300 Indian phone numbers belonging to journalists, activists, politicians, businessmen, constitutional authorities, bureaucrats, among many others were identified. The spyware is developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group which has said that Pegasus is only licensed to governments and its agencies. Why it matters? This is the first unequivocal response by a government ministry to a Pegasus-related question. However, the response does not mean that other ministries or departments had no dealings with the Israeli firm. Since the controversy broke, the Indian government has been asked to clarify its relationship with the NSO Group but their statements have been evasive. The government has neither confirmed nor denied using the spyware categorically. Moreover, it has scuttled every attempt by the Opposition to discuss the issue on the floor of the house. The government has also ignored calls for an impartial investigation into the reported surveillance. History of Indian government’s responses on Pegasus…
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