Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi sparred in the Lok Sabha about the latter’s accusation of snooping on a day when the Opposition forced an unscheduled adjournment and staged a walkout to demand a reply from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the India-China border issue.
Shah challenged the Congress MP for verification of his claim after taking great issue with Gogoi’s claim that the government had employed software to spy on journalists and political rivals. He has made a grave accusation that spyware has been put on his phone. He has to present the House with the proof of his charge. Shah continued, “The House is for serious discussion, not for reckless politics. Either his words be withdrawn, or he must provide the foundation.
Shah emphasised that the Supreme Court-appointed committee had made it clear that it had found no signs of malware on the 29 phones it had examined and that the Union government had not helped with the investigation.
Gogoi, however, who was taking part in a discussion on the issue of drug misuse in the nation, was not prepared to give up. “You watch out for reporters and us. How many drug cartels have been detained thanks to the spyware. The surveillance you set up on us… How many drug cartels have been apprehended as a result of surveillance, the MP queried. Gogoi wanted to know what kind of surveillance system was in place at the nation’s land, air, and sea borders as well as its international airports to monitor the importation of illegal goods.
He also questioned whether, if he had erred, the government should claim that it had not employed the spyware.
Shah did not respond to the query but instead shot back, “He has stated that spyware was deployed on him. He must provide evidence. He cannot simply speak in this manner. The Supreme Court has ruled that you may rest.
Then, Gogoi pleaded with Speaker Om Birla to issue an order if he had erred in requesting the government to disclose whether or not it utilizes spyware for spying. The Congressman was given a word of caution by Birla, who said: “Members should make assertions with proper facts and proof to protect the dignity of Parliament. My request is this.
The Supreme Court appointed a team to investigate if the Center or any state government purchased Pegasus malware for the purpose of monitoring Indian individuals and to identify the specifics of those targeted. However, it claimed in its study that none of the 29 phones it reviewed contained any proof of spyware. The central government “had not cooperated” in the panel’s investigation, the panel had added.
In July 2021, a global group of media outlets and investigative journalists revealed that 50,000 phones, including those of Indian ministers, politicians, activists, businesspeople, and journalists, may have been susceptible to Pegasus, a phone hacking programme developed by the Israeli company NSO Group. This sparked a controversy over spyware.
The central government maintains that a publication of this information would not be in the best interests of the country and has neither verified nor denied that it did indeed buy the spyware from the Israeli company.
Earlier, when the House convened in the morning, the opposition MPs rose to demand a discussion on the subject after staging a protest outside Parliament House to call for the government to end its silence on matters relating to the border between India and China. MPs were heard stating that the prime minister need to appear before the House and make a speech. Additionally, some of the MPs were yelling “Bharat Jodo” slogans. The Speaker demanded, however, that the inquiries be answered during the question period. Birla quickly postponed the sessions to 12 o’clock because the MPs were not cooperating.
Members of the Left parties, the Congress, the DMK, and the NCP reiterated the demand as soon as the Lok Sabha convened at noon. Speaker Om Birla was requested by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress in the House, to permit a discussion on the India-China problem because it is the Opposition’s right to do so. Since this morning, we have been requesting a conversation about the China issue. On TV and outside in general, there is conversation (the Parliament). Give the opposition a chance to speak on the subject. He declared, “It is our right.
They staged a walkout when the Speaker ruled that the matter could not be discussed. They were joined by lawmakers from the Janata Dal (United), but none of the Shiv Sena’s members left with the opposition.
TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay demanded a discussion and left the Lok Sabha in protest right after the Congress-led Opposition MPs did.