West Bengal orders inquiry into Pegasus spying row, becomes first Indian state to do so
West Bengal has become the first Indian state to order an inquiry into the Pegasus spying row that rocked the country and world since its revelation on July 18. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered the probe after Pegasus spyware row surfaced ahead of the monsoon session in Parliament.
An international investigation revealed that among many countries and entities India was also a country that used Israel’s NSO Group-made spyware to hack mobile phones of politicians, journalists, and activists.
Before leaving for Delhi to meet PM Narendra Modi, Banerjee said addressing media at the state secretariat, “The Cabinet has approved the appointment of a commission of inquiry comprising former Supreme Court judge, Justice (retd) MB Lokur and retired chief justice of Calcutta high court, Justice (retd) Jyotirmay Bhattacharya in the exercise of the power conferred by section 3 of the Commission of Enquiry Act, 1952 in the matter of widely reported illegal hacking, monitoring, putting under surveillance, tracking, recording, etc of mobile phones of various persons in the state of West Bengal.”
“Over the past one week, we thought the Centre would initiate a probe, monitored by the apex court on which the citizens have faith. But when we saw that the Centre was apathetic, we decided to appoint a commission of inquiry comprising two retired judges. West Bengal is the first state to do this. They would look into how hacking was being done and who were the persons behind it,” she said.
“If someone is asleep, he must be awakened. This is a small step. Hopefully, this would awaken others. This has been approved in the cabinet today. We would now request the two retired judged to join and start the inquiry,” she added.
Banerjee since long has been alleging that her phone was being hacked. Last week she said that spyware was used to hack the phone of Prashant Kishor and record their entire meeting before assembly elections were held recently.
BJP rejected the allegations as nothing short of a gimmick. “It appears nothing more than a political gimmick which lacks the support of jurisprudence and support of the Indian legal mechanism. Since coming to power in 2011 her government has so far formed innumerable such commissions using public money. But none of the reports were published or placed in the Legislative Assembly. Earlier multiple political leaders had alleged that their phones were tapped by the TMC government. Will the commission also prove all these?” said Jay Prakash Majumdar, BJP vice president in West Bengal.