Union Minister calls Pegasus scandal 'non-issue'; says Opposition's behavior 'unfortunate'
Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi Friday said the Pegasus spyware controversy was a "non-issue" and the government will only discuss issues related to people. "There are so many issues directly related to the people... the government is ready for discussions," Joshi said. The statement comes as Parliament's Monsoon Session has been marked by repeated disruptions by the Opposition demanding discussions on Pegasus.
Urging Opposition leaders to end their protests, Joshi said, "The government doesn't want to pass the bills without discussions. We're ready for discussion but they (the Opposition) are not allowing it." He said the Opposition's behavior was "unfortunate" and asked the latter to seek clarifications from IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw if they are not satisfied with his earlier statement on the Pegasus issue.
Since the beginning of the Monsoon Session on July 19, the Opposition has launched protests demanding discussions on Pegasus. The protests have led to daily disruptions in Parliamentary proceedings. The Opposition's protests are also regarding the new agricultural laws, fuel price hikes, etc. The Opposition blames the Centre for the current impasse in Parliament as the Centre refuses to hold discussions on Pegasus.
Pegasus is a highly-rated spyware—developed by the Israeli company NSO Group—which is only made available to vetted government clients. It was also in the news in 2019 for its use by various governments to track individuals. Earlier this month, a global consortium of media houses revealed the names of 50,000 potential surveillance targets including 300 Indians (journalists, Opposition leaders, ministers, activists, etc.)
India has largely side-stepped the controversy, releasing one statement where Vaishnaw plainly dismissed the reports. Members of the ruling BJP have also refused to participate in meetings of a Parliamentary IT panel to look into the matter. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has launched a judicial probe into the case, while the Supreme Court will hear a plea on Pegasus next week.