The Congress on Saturday attacked the Centre over a New York Times report which claimed that the Indian government bought the Pegasus spy toll in 2017 as part of a deal with Israel, saying illegal snooping using the spyware amounts to "treason".
According to the 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.
Attacking the government, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said on Twitter, "Why did Modi Govt act like the enemies of India and use a warfare weapon against Indian citizens?" "Illegal snooping using Pegasus amounts to treason. No one is above the law and we will ensure that justice is served," he said.
PTI has reached out to the government for a reaction to the NYT report but there was no immediate response.
Citing the media report, Congress spokesperson Shama Mohamed said this is "irrefutable proof" that the BJP government used military grade spyware to snoop on the citizens of India, including former Congress president Rahul Gandhi. There must be accountability, she demanded.
Rajya Sabha MP and senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil alleged that the "revelations" in the report imply that the government "misled" the Supreme Court and Parliament on the issue.
"Why @narendramodi is silent? It is @PMOIndia's duty to clarify. New York Times revelations today that It did indeed subscribe by payment from tax payers money of ₹ 300 crores to spyware Pegasus sold by Israeli NSO company," he tweeted.
"This implies our Govt misled Supreme Court & Parliament," Mr Gohil said.
Youth Congress chief Srinivas B V also cited the media report and tweeted, "Hence Proved! Chowkidar Hi Jasoos Hai.." In a tweet, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged the spyware was used not for defence purposes but to snoop on opposition and journalists. "If there is BJP, it is possible. They have made the country into a Bigg Boss show," she said in a tweet in Hindi.
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said, "Modi government must rebut New York Times revelations today that It did indeed subscribe by payment from tax payers money of ₹ 300 crores to spyware Pegasus sold by Israeli NSO company.
"This implies prima facie our Govt misled Supreme Court and Parliament. Watergate?" he tweeted. An international investigative consortium had claimed last year that many people including Indian ministers, politicians, activists, businessmen and journalists were potentially targeted by the NSO Group's phone hacking software.
The Supreme Court had set up a three-member independent expert panel to probe the alleged use of Pegasus for targeted surveillance in India. The government had denied all allegations made against it in the matter.