Parliament Monsoon Session 2021 LIVE updates: Congress, Trinamool seek adjournment motion over Pegasus spyware row; BJP combative

Parliament Monsoon Session 2021 LIVE updates on day 2: PM Modi to brief on COVID-19 vaccine programme; Opposition expected to corner the government over Pegasus row today

File photo of the Parliament. PTI

Parliament Monsoon Session 2021 LATEST updates: In the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament, a stormy second day on Tuesday can be expected with the Pegasus spyware row being gleefully lapped by the Opposition to corner the treasury benches.

Pegasus spyware row

The Trinamool MPs staged a dharna near the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament and also submitted notices to discuss issue in both Houses. Abhishek Banerjee MP, Trinamool’s all-India general secretary, among those whose phone was allegedly hacked.

The issue of “snooping” using Pegasus spyware snowballed into a massive political row in Parliament and outside as various parties demanded a thorough investigation and sacking of Home Minister Amit Shah, while the government maintained it had nothing to do with it.

Both TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and AAP MP Sanjay Singh have given a notice in Rajya Sabhe under Rule 267, seeking suspension of all business to discuss the Pegasus issue and Zero hour Notice in Rajya Sabha over Pegasus issue respectively.

“I hereby give notice of my intention to ask for leave to move a motion for the adjournment of the business of the house for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent importance. Reports have pointed out that the Government of India has procured the surveillance tool Pegasus developed by Israeli company NSO group for surveillance of journalists, Civil Society Activists, Politicians and Supreme Court Judges. It should be noted that this kind of surveillance classifies as hacking, which is what a spyware does and it would very much qualify as “unauthorised interception” or hacking as per Information Technology Act, 2000. The fact is that the government has not categorically denied that Pegasus has been used officially. Sir this is a matter of grave concern and therefore I wish to raise the same,” Congress MP from Ludhiana Manish Tewari wrote to the Lok Sabha Speaker seeking an adjournment motion on the issue.

The Congress 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 into the “role of the prime minister” in the entire matter as well.

The demand for a probe came from opposition parties, including the Congress, TMC, NCP, Left parties, RJD and Shiv Sena.

The BJP hit back at the Congress and claimed “there is not a shred of evidence” to link either the ruling party or the Modi dispensation with the matter.

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.

The government, on its part, categorically rejected the charges, with IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw asserting in the Lok Sabha that illegal surveillance was not possible with checks and balances in the country’s laws, and alleged that attempts were being made to malign Indian democracy. Vaishnaw’s name also figures in the list.

Home Minister Amit Shah also lashed out at the opposition Congress and international organisations, saying such “obstructers” and “disrupters” will not be able to derail India’s development trajectory with their conspiracies.

The issue also rocked Parliament, where opposition parties raised the issue and disrupted proceedings of both Houses. Several opposition members gave adjournment notices to discuss the issue, but were rejected by the chair.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter, saying, “We know what he’s been reading — everything on your phone.” Gandhi wrote this as a reply to his own tweet two days ago in which he had asked people, “I’m wondering what you guys are reading these days.”

What lies ahead in the day?

  • A BJP Parliamentary Party meeting was held on Monday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in attendance at 9.30 am.
  • Prime Minister Modi will a meeting with floor leaders of all the parties of both the houses at 6 pm on the country’s vaccine policy
  • Opposition leaders to hold a meeting to take a final call on attending Covid briefing for floor leaders in the morning
  • In Rajya Sabha, IT Min Aswini Vaishnaw will make a statement in Rajya Sabha on Pegasus spyware issue at 11 am
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will lay on the Table, a statement showing the Supplementary Demands for Grants, 2021-22 in the Upper House and in the Lower House