The government will not back down from putting up a strong defence in the Pegasus spyware scandal, sources have told NDTV. The news website The Wire reported that phone numbers of Indian journalists were on the hacking list of an unidentified agency using the Pegasus software. The centre has stuck to its earlier position that “no unauthorised interception” took place.
“We have nothing to fear and the government has nothing to hide. We will reply to any query. The news article proves nothing. In fact, previous attempts to link Pegasus with the government have failed,” a source in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) told NDTV.
A response by MeitY to a media questionnaire said that in the past, similar claims were made regarding the use of the software by the Indian government. “Those reports also had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including WhatsApp in the Supreme Court. This news report, thus, also appears to be a similar fishing expedition, based on conjectures and exaggerations to malign the Indian democracy and its institutions,” the government said in the statement.
In its statement today, MeitY said India is a robust democracy committed to ensuring right to privacy as a fundamental right. “We have always strived to attain an informed citizenry with an emphasis on a culture of open dialogue. However, the questionnaire sent to the government indicates that the story being crafted is one that is not only bereft of facts but also founded in pre-conceived conclusions. It seems you are trying to play the role of an investigator, prosecutor as well as jury,” the statement added.
In late 2019, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit in a US court, accusing Israeli surveillance firm NSO of helping government spies break into the phones of about 1,400 users across four continents.
Following reports that journalists and activists in India were also targeted, then Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told the Rajya Sabha that “no unauthorised intervention” took place.