In recent developments about the Pegasus Project, an advocate has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a probe into snooping on the phones of journalists, lawmakers, opposition members, and people in business. ML Sharma, the petitioner, stated that using such spyware is an attack on the democracy of India, and such attacks pose a challenge to India’s national security.
The petition asserted that such spyware attacks compromise the privacy of the individual. The petitioner has asked the apex court to form an investigation team to conduct inquiries regarding the matter. He stated that the person accused should be barred from using the Pegasus spyware and asked the apex court to declare the purchasing of the software unconstitutional and illegal.
Meanwhile, a recent report revealed that industrialist Anil Ambani and Alok Verma, the former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), were mentioned in the list of potential surveillance targets. From the CBI agency, some senior officers, alongside A K Sharma and Rakesh Asthana, the special former additional director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), were also present as a potential target of surveillance.
Venkata Rao Posina, the Indian representative of the French company Dassault Aviation and Tony Jesudan, the employee of Anil Ambani, were also present in the list.
It is speculated that Ambani’s contacts entered the list in 2018 when a legal challenge was stated in the apex court regarding the Indian government’s transactions with the Dassault company to purchase the Rafale jets. In 2018, Inderjit Sial, the former head of Saab India, Pratyush Kumar, and Venkata Rao, appeared in different periods.
In October 2018, the phone number of Alok Verma appeared on the list. Verma, the director of the agency, had filed an FIR against Rakesh Asthana, the deputy in charge. The phone numbers of Rakesh Asthana and A K Sharma were also added to the list during the same period assuming that A K Sharma had a role to play with Alok Verma.
The family members of Alok Verma were also added to the list, including Verma’s wife, daughter, and son-in-law. The report further stated that after the retirement of Verma in February of 2019, the phone numbers were removed.
The central government has said the spyware hack is erroneous and does not contain any factuality. Ashwini Vaishnaw, the IT Minister, provided a statement in Rajya Sabha on Thursday denying the allegations levied by the reports. However, Trinamool Minister Santanu Sen reached towards the well of the house and tore the statement.
The Pegasus Project report had caused two adjustments in the process of parliament. The statement made by Vaishnaw was on similar lines to the statement he had made on July 18. The statement mentioned that such reports are a way to tarnish the Indian democracy.
The government said it would enforce actions or move a privilege motion against Santanu Sen for the act. The Chairperson of Rajya Sabha, Venkaiah Naidu, has suspended the TMC Minister for the remaining monsoon session of the parliament.
The Pegasus Project is a global investigation conducted by Amnesty International alongside Forbidden Stories, a non-profit organization. In partnership with The Guardian, The Washington Post, Le Monde, and others, the Wire revealed the list of officials and prominent individuals mentioned in the list. In India, several journalists from
The Wire, The Indian Express, Telegraph, The Hindu were mentioned in the list. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Union Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw, Pralhad Joshi, Poll strategist Prashant Kishor were also mentioned in the list.