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India

‘Fishing Expedition Based on Conjecture’: Govt’s Full Statement on Pegasus Spyware Expose

A joint report published by the Wire and other international media organisations has claimed that Pegasus, the spyware developed by Israeli firm NSO was used to hack into phones of journalists, politicians and judges.

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Govt dismisses reports of alleged hacking of Indian journalists, political leaders through Pegasus (Source: Pixabay)

New Delhi: The Indian government on Sunday denied any involvement in the use of Pegasus software to spy on the phones of journalists, ministers, opposition leaders, and Supreme Court judges. “The allegations regarding government surveillance on specific people have no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever,” it said in a statement.

It said that based on the questionnaire sent by the media organisation to the government indicated that the “story being crafted is one that is not only bereft of facts but also founded in preconceived conclusions”.

Read More: Pegasus Spyware: Phones of Indian Journos, Politicians, Judges, Activists Targeted, Says Media Report

The government added that the answers to the queries that were posed to it were already in the public domain.

It added that this showed the “poorly conducted research and lack of due diligence” on the part of the media organisation.

“Government of India’s response to a Right to Information application about the use of Pegasus has been prominently reported by the media and is in itself sufficient to counter any malicious claims about the alleged association between the Government of India and Pegasus,” it added.

The government added that such claims were also made in the past of the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp by the Indian government but were denied by all parties including WhatsApp in the Indian Supreme  Court.

It states that India is a “robust democracy” that is committed to the” right to privacy” of its citizens.

The commitment to free speech as a fundamental right is the cornerstone of India’s democratic system. We have always strived to attain an informed citizenry with an emphasis on a culture of open dialogue, said the government.

The government also informed that there was a well-established procedure for lawful interception of electronic communications was done for the purpose of national security, particularly on the occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of public safety, by agencies at the Centre and States. 

“The requests for these lawful interceptions of electronic communication are made as per relevant rules under the provisions of section 5(2) of Indian Telegraph Act,1885 and section 69 of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2000,” it said.

Read More: Pegasus Expose: Israeli Firm NSO Threatens Defamation Lawsuit Over ‘Outrageous Allegations

Each case of interception, monitoring, and decryption is approved by the competent authority i.e. the Union Home Secretary. These powers are also available to the competent authority in the state governments as per IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring, and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.

There is an established oversight mechanism in the form of a review committee headed by the Union Cabinet Secretary. In the case of state governments, such cases are reviewed by a committee headed by the Chief Secretary concerned