Ministers in Rajya Sabha dodged the question on Pegasus in Parliament in Nov, 2019. Union information and technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad claimed, “No unauthorised snooping happened in the case,”. The matter under discussion was serious and therefore, the ministers responded with an appeal to exercise discretion.
Excerpts from the meeting are provided below:
Digvijay Singh: They are compromising the national security of the country. They are compromising our fundamental rights. Rajeev Gowda: The time for decision is over. So, we need to quickly wind this up.
Anand Sharma: I thank the hon. Minister for the comprehensive statement that he has given but the fundamental question remains there. It is not a question of service provider, that is, Google or Whatsapp. It is a larger issue. You are right that when it comes to authorised interceptions by identified government agencies, there is an established procedure, where the minister has explained, for the central government or the concerned state governments, which has to be duly recorded.
Jairam Ramesh: Just ask whether Pegasus was bought or not. Just ask him straight.
Anand Sharma: Don’t tell me what to ask. Let me ask. I’m asking. My question to the Minister is very clear. Besides the authorised, what you have explained, have the government agencies made unauthorised use of the spyware. You have the information. That information needs to be given to the House because that is the real question –of the unauthorised. Authorised will be recorded. Spying, in this case, is authorised. Secretaries will record the ‘authorize’ but the real concern is that it is being made use of without any authorization.
Rajeev Gowda: We will examine this and the Chair will make a decision. Any final responses, ministers?
Former Minister of Law and Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad: “With great respect to the House and hon Anand Sharma Ji I would like to say that I have stated very clearly that this House and to Anand Sharmaji, I would like to say that any violation is actionable in law. Action will be taken. If anyone is having a problem, let them file an FIR, a formal complaint. And, to the best of my knowledge, no ‘unauthorised instruction’ has been done.”