Mumbai: A day after the news of Pegasus spyware being used to snoop on Indian journalists and others broke, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesman Sachin Sawant on Monday demanded to know whether a similar exercise was conducted during the reign of the BJP-led government in Maharashtra.
“Did the Pegasus scandal happen in Maharashtra? The Maha Vikas Aghadi government should probe this. In Maharashtra, a case of unauthorised phone-tapping through Rashmi Shukla has already come to light during the Fadnavis government. But there were also reports of the use of Pegasus software,” said Sawant in a series of tweets.
“Was any IPS officer sitting in the Mantralaya working on this? With whose permission did the DGIPR officers go to Israel? What training did they receive? Did they come back and report? Is it related to Pegasus? It is surprising and suspicious that such tours have taken place during the election period", Sawant questioned.
“How many times did some officers go to Israel? Were there any government meetings with NSO? What was the correspondence with NSO? It should all come to the fore. Earlier, such an inquiry was demanded by @ digvijaya_28 ji as well,” Sawant noted.
He further said the issue of phone-tapping at the national level through Pegasus software and the probable role of the Modi government in it was a serious one for the country. All BJP-ruled state governments may have been instructed to work on this procedure, Sawant felt. Phone-tapping during the Fadnavis government in Maharashtra had the same intent, he added.
Maharashtra Minister of State for Home & IT Satej Patil emphasised the need for stronger IT measures which, instead of bullying tech platforms to surrender user information, hold the government accountable and safeguard the privacy and security of each and every Indian. The minister tweeted: “The Pegasus leak is a massive breach of Indian people’s trust and their privacy. Spying on Indian citizens using taxpayer money with the help of an international agency, the Modi government is ruining India’s great democratic values".
In a related development, the NCP also sought a probe into the matter and sought action against those responsible. Maharashtra Minority Affairs Minister and party spokesman Nawab Malik said on Monday, only an inquiry could establish which Central government agency had allegedly hacked the phones of journalists, ministers and industrialists.
“If the software wasn’t sold to private individuals, which agency of the Central government hacked the phones of journalists, ministers, social workers, judges and industrialists,” he asked.
Malik said the Modi government should explain if the alleged phone-tapping was done for surveillance. Action should be taken against those responsible, he added.