The Congress party on Monday demanded the sacking of Union Home Minister Amit Shah and investigation into Prime Minister Narendra Modi's role after recent news reports alleged that mobile phones of more than 300 Indians, including those of two serving ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders and scores of business persons and activists in India have been targetted for hacking through an Israeli spyware Pegasus.
"Shocking & sensational news reperts disclosing illegal and unconstitutional hacking of cell phones of Constitutional functionaries, Union Cabinet Ministers, present & Former Heads of India's Security Forces, Senior Leaders of Opposition, Journalists, Lawyers and Activists reflect treasons and inexcusable dismantling of National Security by BJP Government, 'Rule of Law', 'Fundamental Right to Privacy & Constitutional Duties have been murdered in broad day light by the Modi Government," Congress said in a statement.
"Modi Government is the deplayer and executor of this illegal and unconstitutional snooping and spying racket through Israeli surveillance software 'Pegasus'. The spyware not only breaches the WhatsApp but is able to turn over the phone's camera and microphone to capture all activities in the vicinity of the phone, besides backing all the security features of the phone, including listening to and sending passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages and live voice calls," the party added.
"The unpardonable sin is that the snooping and hacking of cell phones through 'Pegasus' has given illegal access to the entire conversations, passwords, contact lists, text messages and live voice calls of India's security apparatus, Union Ministers, Opposition Leaders, Paramilitary Chiefs, Supreme Court Judges and others. This is clearly "TREASON" and total abdication of "National Security" by the Modi Government, more so when the foreign company could possibly have access to this data," the Congress further said.
Congress said Union Home Minister Amit Shah is "the person responsible" and "of course, it could not be done without the consent and concurrence of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the party claimed. "This is an unforgivable sacrilege and negation of Constitutional oath by the Home Minister and the Prime Minister," it added.
Meanwhile, a second set of explosive revelations on Monday said the names of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, election strategist Prashant Kishor, Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee, IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, minister of state for Jal Shakti Prahlad Singh Patel, personal secretary to Vasundhara Raje Scindia, officer on special duty (OSD) for Smriti Irani, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia, and many others were among the 300 verified Indian numbers listed as potential targets for surveillance during 2017-2019 by a client of the Israel-based NSO group, reported The Wire.
IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, however, has dismissed media reports on the use of Pegasus software to snoop on Indians, 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, Vaishnaw said that with several checks and balances being in place, "any sort of illegal surveillance" by unauthorised persons is not possible in India.
"A highly sensational story was published by a web portal yesterday night.... The press report appeared a day before the Monsoon session of the Parliament. This cannot be a coincidence. In the past similar claims were made regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp. Those reports have no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties.... The press report of July 18, 2021 also appeared to be an attempt to malign the Indian democracy and a well-established institution," the minister said.