A government source on Saturday said that the matter related to Pegasus software is being monitored by a committee under the Supreme Court and its report is awaited.
The source said that the inquiry committee — set up under the supervision of retired Supreme Court judge R V Raveendran — has also published a newspaper advertisement on January 2 calling for submission of phones by people who claim their devices were infected by Pegasus.
“Matter (is) already with the Supreme Court. The court has constituted a committee under the supervision of retired judge Raveendran. The committee’s report (is) awaited,” the source said.
According to a report in The New York Times, the Israeli spyware Pegasus and a missile system were the “centerpieces” of a roughly USD 2-billion deal of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear between India and Israel in 2017.
Opposition party Congress launched an all-out attack on the government following the New York Times report, accusing it of deceiving Parliament, duping the Supreme Court, hijacking democracy and indulging in treason, after a media report claimed India bought the Pegasus spyware from Israel as part of a defence deal in 2017.
The Congress said it intends to raise the issue in the budget session starting next week and will demand accountability from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP government on the floor of Parliament.
The principal opposition party also urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the matter and initiate appropriate penal proceedings against the government for attempting to deliberately and knowingly “deceive” it.
The shadow of the Pegasus issue looms large again over the 2022 budget session as the entire Monsoon session of 2021 was washed out after the Opposition had jointly stalled the proceedings over the issue.
A massive controversy erupted last year when the NSO Group hit the headlines with the alleged use of its Pegasus software by some governments to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and others in a number of countries, including India, triggered concerns over issues relating to privacy.