As snoopgate snowballs, Govt faces Opposition fire

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New data reveals that SC staffer who acusses former CJI Gogoi of sexual harassment and ex-EC Ashok Lavasa were in the snooping list, reports Asian Lite News

A political row erupted over the Pegasus spyware case with Amit Shah responding to Congress demands that he steps down as Union home minister by stating that reports of alleged surveillance were part of a choreographed attempt to defame India.

“People have often associated this phrase with me in a lighter vein but today I want to seriously say – the timing of the selective leaks, the disruptions… Understand the chronology. This is a report by the disrupters for the obstructers,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Pegasus Project, a special investigation coordinated by Forbidden Stories and 16 international media partners with the assistance of Amnesty International’s technical team revealed that three phone numbers belonging to the Supreme Court staffer, who had accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, were selected as potential targets for surveillance.

The leaked records show that eight other phone numbers belonging to her husband and two of his brothers were also marked as possible candidates for surveillance in the same week, when her allegations against the CJI were first reported.

All told, a total of 11 numbers associated with the complainant and her family were selected, making them among the largest cluster of associated phone numbers.

Another big name that has tumbled out is that of former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa, who was snooped. Lavasa was the only member of the 3-person Election Commission to rule that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had violated the Model Code of Conduct while campaigning for the 2019 general election.

Election Commissioners are constitutional functionaries, whose independence from government is guaranteed by statute and is considered crucial for the free and fair conduct of elections in India.

The records show that Lavasa was selected for potential surveillance weeks after he had dissented not once but in five different matters of alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct by then BJP President Amit Shah and Prime Minister Modi. Of the five matters, four related to complaints of alleged violations by Modi.

Congress plans protests

After it emerged that former party President Rahul Gandhi, among others, was one of the potential targets of snooping, the Congress has planned nationwide agitation and has decided to raise the issue in Parliament.

At least two mobile phone accounts used by Rahul Gandhi were among the 300 verified Indian numbers listed as potential targets by an official Indian client of the Israeli surveillance technology vendor, NSO Group.

The Congress has asked its state units to march towards Raj Bhavan to lodge the protest and it will also hold press conference in each state capital.

In Parliament, the party has moved suspension notice in the Rajya Sabha by K.C. Venugopal and adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress said that it’s “shocking and sensational” that news reports disclosing illegal and unconstitutional hacking of cellphones of Constitutional functionaries, Union Cabinet ministers, present and former heads of security forces, senior leaders of the opposition, journalists, lawyers and activists reflect treasonous and inexcusable dismantling of national security by the BJP government.

Issue to dominate Monsoon session

As the issue of snooping is getting murkier, the proceedings in Parliament are likely to be disrupted. Aam Aadmi Party member Sanjay Singh has given a Zero Hour notice in the Rajya Sabha while the opposition is meeting for joint strategy on the issue.

The opposition will also decide whether to attend the meeting of floor leaders called by the government.

The Congress has moved suspension notice under rule 267.

The IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw will make a statement regarding compromise of phone data of some persons as reported in the media.

In the legislative business, The Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021 is there for consideration and passing. The bill provides for the development, maintenance and management of aids to navigation in India; for training and certification of operator of aids to navigation, development of its historical, educational and cultural value; to ensure compliance with the obligation under the maritime treaties and international instruments to which India is a party and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto, as passed by Lok Sabha, be taken into consideration, said the Rajya Sabha Bulletin.

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