After his mobile phone number was listed as a potential target for hacking through an Israeli spyware Pegasus, which is reportedly sold only to government agencies, Union Minister Prahlad Singh Patel on Tuesday said he never felt that the government was snooping on him.
"I'm not such a big man. I don't believe my Govt would indulge in such activities. I feel Opposition should hold discussions & let Parliament function," Patel told news agency ANI.
He added that IT and Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has clarified the government's stance on the Pegasus spyware issue. "So I don't need to comment on this issue separately," he said.
For the unversed, an international media consortium reported on Monday that former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, BJP ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, and many others were among those whose phone numbers were listed as potential targets for hacking through Israeli spyware Pegasus.
The Wire, in the second part of its revelations from the international collaborative investigation called the Pegasus Project, reported that the phone number of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee and 11 phone numbers belonging to the Supreme Court staffer and her close relatives, who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment in April 2019, were also selected as targets for surveillance.
The government, however, dismissed the media reports, saying the allegations levelled just ahead of the Monsoon session of Parliament are aimed at "maligning Indian democracy".
In a suo motu statement in Lok Sabha, IT and Communications said that with several checks and balances being in place, "any sort of illegal surveillance" by unauthorised persons is not possible in India.