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Govt: Claims of snooping using Pegasus are conjecture, an attempt to malign Indian democracy

The government of India has rejected the claims surrounding state-sponsored surveillance on specific people and asserted that it has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever. 

Modi Govt Claims of snooping using Pegasus are conjecture attempt to malign Indian democracy-VPN
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New Delhi, First Published Jul 18, 2021, 11:03 PM IST
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The government of India has rejected the claims surrounding state-sponsored surveillance on specific people and asserted that it has no concrete basis or truth associated with it whatsoever. 

Responding to queries with regard to an investigation done by a group of media outlets with regard to the use of Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group's spyware Pegasus to snoop upon phones of certain people in India, the government said that the "report appears to be a fishing expedition, based on conjectures and exaggerations to malign the Indian democracy and its institutions."

According to the investigation, phones of around 50,000 people were targeted using the Pegasus spyware. Among the phone numbers that were part of the NSO Group data that was leaked were those belonging to hundreds of journalists, activists, opposition politicians, government officials and business executives.

Countering the news report which appeared in the Washington Post, the Ministry for Electronics and Information Technology said that story was "founded in pre-conceived conclusions".

The government claimed that similar claims were made in 2019 regarding the use of Pegasus on WhatsApp by the Indian State. 

"Those reports also had no factual basis and were categorically denied by all parties, including WhatsApp in the Indian Supreme Court," the IT ministry said.

"The Minister of Electronics & IT has also spoken in detail, including in the Parliament, that there has been no unauthorised interception by Government agencies. It is important to note that government agencies have a well-established protocol for the interception, which includes sanction and supervision from highly ranked officials in central & state governments, for clearly stated reasons only in the national interest," the government said.

"In India, there is a well-established procedure through which lawful interception of electronic communication is carried out in order for the purpose of national security, particularly in case 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," the government added.

The government also clarified that each case of interception, monitoring, and decryption is approved by the Union Home Secretary. 

The competent authority in the state governments also has these powers in accordance with the IT (Procedure and Safeguards for Interception, Monitoring and Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.

"The procedure, therefore, ensures that interception, monitoring or decryption of any information through any computer resource is done as per the due process of law," the government said.

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