A new controversy has erupted after a report claimed that India bought the Pegasus spyware from Israel as part of a defence deal in 2017 and said its silence was an “acceptance of criminal activity”.
According to the report in The New York Times, the Israeli spyware Pegasus and a missile system were the “centrepieces” of a roughly $2-billion deal of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear between India and Israel in 2017.
Following the report, the Centre came under heavy criticism from opposition parties, who accused it of “deceiving” Parliament.
“Matter (is) already with the Supreme Court. The court has constituted a committee under the supervision of retired judge Raveendran. The committee’s report (is) awaited,” the government source said, responding to the opposition tirade.
The source said that the inquiry committee — set up under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge R V Raveendran — has also published a newspaper advertisement on January 2 calling for submission of phones by people who claim their devices were infected by Pegasus.
Meanwhile, The Congress said it intends to raise the issue in the upcoming Budget session and will demand accountability from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government on the floor of Parliament
The principal opposition party also urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the matter and initiate appropriate penal proceedings against the government for attempting to deliberately and knowingly “deceive” it.
According to a report in The New York Times, the Israeli spyware Pegasus and a missile system were the “centerpieces” of a roughly USD 2-billion deal of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear between India and Israel in 2017.
In a tweet, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, “The (Narendra) Modi government must explain on affidavit why it bought this cyber weapon, who gave the permission for its usage, how were the targets selected and who got these reports?”
Union minister V K Singh slams report
Meanwhile, Union minister Gen V K Singh called the NYT “Supari Media” over its report about a deal between India and Israel.
Reacting to NYT’s report, Singh, minister of state for road transport and highways and civil aviation, said on Twitter: “Can you trust NYT?? They are known “Supari Media”.”
The shadow of the Pegasus issue looms large again over the 2022 budget session as the entire Monsoon session of 2021 was washed out after the Opposition had jointly stalled the proceedings over the issue.
A massive controversy erupted last year when the NSO Group hit the headlines with the alleged use of its Pegasus software by some governments to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and others in a number of countries, including India, triggered concerns over issues relating to privacy.
(With inputs from PTI)