Pegasus: IT panel meeting postponed; BJP member demands Tharoor's removal
A meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Information and Technology was put off on Wednesday due to a lack of quorum as panel members from the Bharatiya Janata Party refused to sign attendance. The agenda was "citizens' data security and privacy" in light of the Pegasus scandal. BJP MP Nishikant Dubey has now sought the removal of the panel chair, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
What happened at the IT panel meeting?
The panel was to meet on Wednesday to question officials from the Home, IT, and Communications Ministries, The Indian Express reported. However, when they met, the BJP MPs on the panel suggested that there was a lack of quorum (one-third of the total 31 members). Reportedly, when it was argued that 19 members were present, the BJP members refused to sign the attendance sheet.
Congress not allowing Pegasus discussion in Parliament: BJP
BJP members, who are in majority on the panel, reportedly denied a quorum. They argued that the Pegasus issue cannot be discussed in the panel since Congress is blocking discussions in Parliament. Notably, both Houses of Parliament have seen daily disruptions over the matter since the Monsoon Session commenced as the Opposition pushes for a Supreme Court-monitored judicial probe into the Pegasus case.
What are BJP's allegations against Tharoor?
On Wednesday, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey moved a privilege motion against Shashi Tharoor accusing him of bias. BJP members said Tharoor makes the agenda of the panel meetings public without the knowledge of members. This amounts to a breach of secrecy, they said. The motion claimed that Tharoor had lost a majority of the panel members' trust and demanded his removal as its head.
What does the privilege motion against Tharoor say?
Tharoor "not only disrobed the democratic functioning of an August Committee but also exhibited an extreme high level of sycophancy toward his political masters, who still have a false notion of ruling our country and its democratic institutions by way of destroying them bit-by-bit and also creating a ruckus through their cronies like the present chairperson of the committee on IT," said Dubey's notice.
Pegasus no-go area for this government: Congress
Meanwhile, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram, who is also a member of the panel, said in a tweet, "BJP members come to the [meeting] and refuse to sign the attendance register." He said, "Further, all the witnesses called from MiEIT and MHA wrote in excuses and didn't appear as called to testify. It's very clear that Pegasus is a no-go area for this government. (sic)"
Mahua Moitra called me Bihari Goonda: BJP's Dubey
Separately, Dubey alleged that a panel member, TMC MP Mahua Moitra, called him a "Bihari Goonda" during the meeting. He said he would take this up with Speaker Om Birla. In her defense, Moitra tweeted, "IT mtng (meeting) did not happen because NO quorum - members did not attend. How can I call someone a name who was not even present!! Check attendance sheet!"
IT panel will 'do its duty,' Tharoor said earlier
After announcing that the panel would take up the Pegasus snooping issue, Tharoor had said that the IT panel "will do its duty." He also ruled out the possibility of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Pegasus case, which deals with the possible surveillance of 300 Indian citizens—including politicians, journalists, activists, etc.—by a domestic or foreign government.