Mamata Banerjee sets up inquiry panel to probe Pegasus scandal
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday ordered a formal investigation into the Pegasus snooping scandal in the state. Banerjee set up a panel, headed by retired judges Justice MB Lokur and Justice Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, to look into allegations that an Indian client of the Israeli company NSO Group used the Pegasus spyware to hack the phones of over 300 prominent Indian citizens.
Stating that a committee is being set up to probe the hacking allegations, Banerjee said, "I hope this small step will wake up others. We want it to start as soon as possible. Many people from Bengal have been tapped." Banerjee's statement comes days after her nephew, Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee, was identified as one of the potential Pegasus surveillance targets.
The investigation assumes significance as this is the first formal probe into the alleged snooping scandal amid the Centre's reluctance to do the same. Despite the Opposition's demands, the Centre has shown little inclination in setting up a probe into the allegations. The Centre has not heeded to the demand of a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe raised by Congress, CPI, and Shiv Sena.
Separately, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor-led Parliamentary Committee on Information and Technology has decided to take up the issue of the Pegasus scandal on July 28. However, Tharoor had ruled out the possibility of a JPC probe, saying the IT committee is "doing the job."
Meanwhile, Banerjee is leaving for Delhi on Monday for her first visit after a stupendous electoral victory in May. Banerjee will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 28 and is likely to meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi during her stay in Delhi. She is also likely to host a tea gathering for Opposition leaders at 3 pm on July 28.
Banerjee's visit has sparked speculation about a possible attempt to unite the Opposition ahead of the 2024 elections. On July 21, Banerjee called for unity among Opposition parties in a speech screened in Delhi that was attended by leaders like P Chidambaram and Sharad Pawar.