Indian Parliament
Indian Parliament

New Delhi: The Trinamool Congress MPs on Tuesday staged a protest near the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament and also submitted notices to discuss issue of alleged phone tapping in both Houses of Parliament.

The Trinamool Congress MPs assembled near the Mahatma Gandhi statue and staged protest there.

The issue of "snooping" using Pegasus spyware snowballed into a massive political row in Parliament and outside as opposition parties demanded a thorough investigation and sacking of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

Trinamool MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy gave a notice in Rajya Sabha under Rule 267, seeking suspension of all business to discuss the Pegasus issue.

In the midst of the heated Assembly elections in West Bengal earlier this year, the phone of poll strategist Prashant Kishor was broken into using NSO Group's Pegasus spyware, according to digital forensics conducted by Amnesty International's Security Lab and shared with The Wire.

In addition, the mobile number of key strategist Abhishek Banerjee, the powerful Trinamool Congress MLA who is also the nephew of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, was also selected as a potential target for surveillance by a government client of NSO Group, an investigation of leaked data by The Wire and its media partners on the Pegasus Project has shown.

Also on the list is Banerjee's personal secretary.

New IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Monday asserted in the Lok Sabha that a highly sensational story was published by a web portal. "Many over-the-top allegations made around this story. The press reports appeared a day before the Monsoon Session of Parliament. This can't be a coincidence," he had said.

Noting that in the past similar claims were made regarding use of Pegasus on WhatsApp, he said: "Those reports had no factual basis and were denied by all parties. Press reports of July 18 also appear to be an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions."

The issue triggered a stormy start to the Monsoon Session after a global collaborative investigative project revealed that Israeli company NSO Groups' Pegasus spyware targeted over 300 mobile phone numbers in India including that of two ministers in the Narendra Modi government, three Opposition leaders, constitutional authority, several journalists and business persons.

The Congress on Monday accused the government of "treason" and held Shah responsible for the snooping and hacking of phones of journalists, judges and politicians, and demanded a probe.

BJP leader and former IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad questioned the credentials of those behind the story as well as its timing, coming a day before Parliament's Monsoon Session that began on Monday, as he accused the opposition party of hitting a "new low" in making baseless allegations.

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