New Delhi: Union Minister for Information Technology Ashiwini Vaishnaw on Monday responded to the ‘Pegasus Project’ report that made serious accusations against the Indian government alleging snooping.
“A highly sensational story was published by a web portal last night. Many over-the-top allegations were made around this story. The press reports appeared a day before the monsoon session of Parliament. This can’t be a coincidence,” Ashwini Vaishnaw, said in Lok Sabha.
“We can’t fault those who haven’t read the news story in detail and I request all members of the House to examine issues on facts and logic. The basis of this report is that there is a consortium that has got access to a leaked database of 50,000 phone numbers,” he elaborated.
The allegation is that individuals linked to these phone numbers were being spied upon.
“However, the report says that the presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether was a device was infected by Pegasus or subjected to an attempted hack. Without subjecting the phone to this technical analysis, it’s not possible to conclusively state whether it witnessed an attempted hack or successfully compromised. The report itself clarifies that the presence of a number in the list doesn’t amount to snooping,”: the Union IT Minister contended in Lok Sabha.
Reiterating the Indian government’s prior response, Ashwini Vaishnaw stressed that any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with checks and balances in Indian laws and robust institutions. “In India, there’s a well-established procedure through which lawful interception of electronic communication is carried out for purpose of national security,” he said.
Requests for lawful interceptions of electronic communication are made as per relevant rules under provisions of Sec 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and Sec 69 of Information Technology Act 2000. Each case of interception is approved by the competent authority, Ashwini Vaishnaw clarified adding that when looked at through the prism of logic, “it clearly emerges that there is no substance, whatsoever, behind this sensationalism”.
Reports on ‘Pegasus Project’ alleged that over 40 journalists, 3 prominent opposition leaders, 1 constitutional authority, 2 serving ministers in the Narendra Modi government, current and former heads and officials of security organizations, and a large number of businessmen were part of the list of potential or past victims of the Pegasus project.
The Guardian and The Washington Post claimed that many governments of the world including the Indian government, are spying on popular personalities through a special software named Pegasus. These personalities include human rights activists, journalists, and reputed lawyers. The Indian government has denied these allegations.
(With Agency Inputs)