New Delhi: The stage is set for a high-decibel Budget Session with the Opposition preparing to raise the ante against the government on the recent Pegasus disclosures in the New York Times.
The Congress is reaching out to the opposition to devise a common strategy to corner the government. Also, its MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Sunday wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and demanded that a privilege motion be initiated against Union Minister of Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw for "deliberately misleading the House on Pegasus issue".
In his letter, Chowdhury refers to the New York Times report which claimed that the Indian Government bought the Israeli spyware Pegasus in 2017 as part of a 2-billion-dollar weapons package.
Stressing that the Pegasus issue had rocked the Monsoon Session of Bringing out the dichotomy in the government stand on the issue, Chowdhury said, "The Government, on the floor of the House, always maintained that it had nothing to do with the Pegasus spyware. The Modi Government also lied to the Supreme Court when it was directly questioned about the purchase and deployment of Pegasus. In an affidavit, the Government said 'unequivocally, we deny any and all of the allegations against the Government' on the Pegasus issue," he added.
Keeping the latest revelations by New York Times as the basis of his request, Chowdhury said, "it appears that the Modi Government has misled Parliament and the Supreme Court and lied to the people of India." "I demand that a Privilege Motion may be initiated against the Minister of Information Technology for deliberately misleading the House on the Pegasus issue," he demanded.
Notably, after the US newspaper report surfaced, lawyer ML Sharma moved the Supreme Court seeking direction to register an FIR and probe the matter.
The petition says the alleged India-Israel deal was not approved by Parliament and, therefore, needs to be cancelled and the money recovered.
The Editors Guild of India, meanwhile, has urged the Justice R V Raveendran committee to take cognisance of the "startling claims" made in a New York Times (NYT) report and seek responses from the government and the ministries that may have been involved in the alleged deal in 2017.
In its letter to Justice Raveendran, the guild also urged that the proceedings of the committee, set up by the Supreme Court last year to probe the alleged use of the spyware for targeted surveillance, be kept open to the public at large so that there is complete transparency with respect to the witnesses being called as well as their responses.