A Defence Ministry Denial As Opposition Targets Home Ministry On Pegasus

The Ministry of Defence "has not had any transaction with NSO Group Technologies," read the written response from junior defence minister Ajay Bhat.

The Pegasus spyware issue has also reached the Supreme Court.

New Delhi:

The defence ministry has said it has not made any transaction with the Israeli firm NSO, which is also the vendor of the Pegasus military-grade spyware -- the eye of the huge political storm that has been disrupting the Monsoon Session of parliament. The statement today was part of the ministry's answer in Rajya Sabha in response to a question by Dr V Sivadasan. The CPM MP had questioned whether the government has carried out any transaction with the NSO Group Technologies and if so, the details of it.

The Ministry of Defence "has not had any transaction with NSO Group Technologies," read the written response from junior defence minister Ajay Bhat.

The government has so far said that no illegal surveillance has been conducted. But the response has failed to satisfy the opposition, which is pushing for a straight answer on whether the government has a contract with the NSO and whether it snooped on citizens.

In case of surveillance as per law -- a complicated process involving checks and balances -- it is not the defence ministry, but the Union Home Ministry and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology which are involved.

The opposition has been demanding answers from the government since a global media consortium had reported that a number of Indian politicians, journalists and others could have been targets of surveillance through the Israeli spyware.

The matter has also reached the Supreme Court, with a clutch of petitions calling for an independent probe into the issue, including the alleged contract with NSO.

The opposition claims the government is answerable, ever since the NSO said its clients are only vetted governments and their agencies.

In a joint statement last week, 14 opposition parties demanded a discussion on the Pegasus issue in parliament. Claiming the matter has "national security dimensions", the statement demanded that the Union Home Minister Amit Shah respond to the issue.  

Over the weekend, they demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend parliament and hear what they have to say on the issue.

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