Pegasus row: Bihar CM seeks detailed probe into allegations of phone-hacking - Hindustan Times
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Pegasus row: Bihar CM seeks detailed probe into allegations of phone-hacking

Aug 02, 2021 07:24 PM IST

Regarding the Opposition’s demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe despite the government’s rejecting the charge, Nitish Kumar said that those with any concrete evidence of the snooping should show proof

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said that a detailed inquiry must be conducted to bring out the truth regarding the allegations of phone-hacking, which have crippled the functioning of Parliament for the past few days.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. (ANI)
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. (ANI)

Talking to media persons after the customary Janata Darbar, Kumar said that the issue (allegations of snooping via Pegasus surveillanceware) should be debated, and the government must take appropriate steps in keeping with gravity of the matter. “Investigation of the issue is also important as it is not known who is after the phone tapping or hacking,” said Kumar.

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Regarding the Opposition’s demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe despite the government’s rejecting the charge, Kumar said that those with any concrete evidence of the snooping should show proof.

Last week, the chief minister criticised any alleged attempt to hack phones of some journalists, political leaders and bureaucrats via Pegasus project and said there were some bad aspects of technical evolution. “Sometimes, technologies, which are largely beneficial, can be misused also,” said the CM.

Also Read | Pegasus row: IT panel chief seeks action against officials

A consortium of media organisations began reporting a series of stories since July 18 on a leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers -- some belonging to politicians, journalists and activists -- around the world. The numbers are believed to have been selected for targeting for surveillance by clients of the NSO Group, which makes the military-grade mobile device spyware Pegasus. Of the 50,000 Amnesty International analysed 67 devices, and 37 of these confirmed a Pegasus infection. Dozens of numbers on the list were linked to Indian citizens, including opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, journalists, activists, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa and the current electronics and IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

To be sure, as the methodology of the investigation into the alleged snooping explains, the presence of a number on the database of the alleged targeted numbers does not indicate an individual’s phone was hacked — just that it was of interest.

The government has neither confirmed nor denied whether it has purchased the spyware. NSO Group has, on multiple occasions, said that it offers services only to vetted government clients. The company has disputed the leaked list of numbers as those targeted by its clients.

CM bats for caste-based census

Batting for a caste-based census, the chief minister said that he would write to the Centre and seek an appointment to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon with a request. “The state legislature unanimously passed a resolution in 2019, seeking a caste-based census. A similar resolution was passed in the assembly again in 2020. The Opposition leaders have met me and urged to begin it despite Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s reluctance,” said Kumar, adding that parliamentary affairs minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhary was pursuing the issue.

Dismissing the perception that the declaration of caste census would create social tension, the CM said that all sections of the society would welcome it. “All parties (including the BJP) have agreed to the demand for caste census. However, it all depends on the Centre, whether it is willing or not,” added the CM.

Rashtriya Janata Dal national spokesman and Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha has urged the CM to stick to his demands. “I hope he does not come under pressure and his statements weren’t misinterpreted,” added Jha, speaking on the CM’s demand for a probe in Pegasus issue.

BJP spokesman Ranjan Patel said that the party believed there was no such spying. “It is all Opposition’s baseless charges. They are not getting any issue, so their are raking up a non-issue. Our party and the government work with total transparency,” added the BJP leader.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Subhash Pathak is special correspondent of Hindustan Times with over 15 years of experience in journalism, covering issues related to governance, legislature, police, Maoism, urban and road infrastructure of Bihar and Jharkhand.

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