Cong accuses govt of snooping, urges SC to take action

A government that spies on journalists/activists/Opposition leaders and treats its own citizens like criminals has lost the right to lead in our democracy, said Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala. Photo/PTI

A war of words broke out over revelations of spying by messaging platform WhatsApp with the Congress accusing the central agencies of spying on Supreme Court judges, opposition leaders, human rights activists and journalists, a charge rejected by the government.

Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala accused the Modi government of using the Pegasus surveillance software of the Israeli agency NSO to hack the phones of those critical of its policies and demanded that the Supreme Court take suo motu cognisance of the issue and order a court-monitored probe.

Surjewala laughed off IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad's demand for WhatsApp to come clean on the breach of privacy of Indian citizens. Surjewala asked Prasad to explain which central agency had purchased and deployed Pegasus surveillance software from the Israeli company.

“Strategically, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black,” Surjewala said asking Prasad to clarify whether it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi or National Security Adviser Ajit Doval who approved the purchase of the Pegasus software.

Read: Israeli spyware snooped on Indian users on WhatsApp

Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who is on a meditational visit abroad, sought to draw similarities between the snooping allegations involving WhatsApp with the Rafale deal.

“The government seeking WhatsApp’s response on who bought Pegasus to spy on Indian citizens is like Modi asking Dassault who made money on the sale of Rafale jets to India,” Rahul said on Twitter.

Prasad hit back at the Congress, reminding it of the bugging of the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's office and the “spying” over the then Army chief Gen V K Singh, who is now a minister in the Modi government.

“These are instances of breach of privacy of highly reputed individuals, for personal whims and fancies of a family,” Prasad said.

Surjewala accused the Modi government of doing “everything to crush the rights of citizens, including every dissenting voice.”

“The present BJP government opposed the “Right to Privacy’ to be read as part of the fundamental rights. It, in fact, argued that no Indian should have a ‘Right to Privacy’, until the Supreme Court overruled it,” the Congress leader said.

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