Pegasus row: Both Parliament Houses adjourned as Opposition protests
Both the Houses of the Parliament were adjourned minutes after proceedings began today, as the Opposition continued to raise slogans and protest against the Pegasus scandal, that unfolded over the weekend. The Lok Sabha was adjourned until 2 pm while the Rajya Sabha until noon. The Monsoon Session of the Parliament had begun on Monday amid protests by Opposition parties over several key issues.
Four Opposition parties have given notices under Rule 267 in Rajya Sabha, demanding suspension of the scheduled business of the House to discuss the Pegasus spyware controversy. The parties include the Indian National Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Opposition parties had, this morning, decided to raise this issue through the day.
Further, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to address the House on the coronavirus situation in the country at 6 pm. Now, Opposition leaders will meet at 2 pm to decide whether or not they will attend that meet. The Trinamool Congress, whose leaders were among the potential targets of the spyware attack, also staged a protest at the Parliament against the Centre.
Phone numbers of more than 300 Indian government officials, Opposition leaders, activists, and journalists, were targeted between 2018 and 2019, top media organizations around the world reported on Sunday. The potential targets include Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, among others. Pegasus is sold by the Israeli company NSO Group, which says the software is only made available to government clients.
Yesterday, IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in the Parliament that the Pegasus controversy is an "attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well-established institutions." "Any form of illegal surveillance isn't possible with checks and balances in our laws and robust institutions," he said, adding, "The report itself clarifies that presence of a number in the list does not amount to snooping."
Union Home Minister Amit Shah termed it a report "by disrupters for the obstructers," also questioning its timing. "This is a report by the disrupters for the obstructers. Disrupters are global organizations which do not like India to progress. Obstructers are political players in India who do not want India to progress. People of India are very good at understanding this chronology and connection."
The NSO Group has also rubbished the allegations and said it is considering to file a defamation case. "The report by Forbidden Stories is full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources," the company said. "In fact, these allegations are so outrageous and far from reality, that NSO is considering a defamation lawsuit."