New Delhi: A day after media reports of alleged spying of journalists and other personalities of the country with Pegasus spyware surfaced, the Union Information and Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, while replying on behalf of the government to the questions of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, rubbished the reports of espionage.
He said it is an attempt to malign Indian democracy.
IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said by logic, the website only tried to create sensation through baseless news reports. If the members pay proper attention to the news, then they themselves will understand this, he said.
The Union Minister said, "NSO has also said that the report is false and baseless. Any kind of illegal surveillance is not possible in our system. This media report coming a day before Parliament session is not a coincidence."
The minister was making a statement on the Pegasus project reports, published in The Wire, which showed that over 300 hone numbers - including those of two serving ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders among others could have been targeted for hacking through Pegasus spyware.
The Lok Sabha faced repeated disruptions on the first day of the Monsoon Session and was finally adjourned for the day, as the Opposition sought to corner the government over several issues, including rising petroleum prices and the alleged phone tapping issue.
The lower House faced ruckus created by the Opposition since it assembled at 11 a.m.
Despite Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla's repeated efforts to continue the functioning of the House, MPs from opposition parties gathered near the Speaker's podium and continued sloganeering against the government .
After two back to back adjournments following the ruckus, the Speaker finally adjourned the House for the day after new IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw gave a detailed statement over the phone tapping issue.
Vaishnaw said: "A highly sensational story was published by a web portal last night. Many over-the-top allegations made around this story. The press reports appeared a day before the Monsoon Session of Parliament. This can't be a coincidence."
Noting that in the past similar claims were made regarding use of Pegasus on WhatsApp, he said: "Those reports had no factual basis and were denied by all parties. Press reports of July 18 also appear to be an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions."
The issue triggered a stormy start to the Monsoon Session after a global collaborative investigative project revealed that Israeli company NSO Groups' Pegasus spyware was targeted over 300 mobile phone numbers in India including that of two ministers in the Narendra Modi government, three Opposition leaders, constitutional authority, several journalist and business persons.