Pegasus surveillance | Kolkata

Pegasus spyware issue: West Bengal govt. sets up two-member inquiry commission

"Ssince there were 'aggrieved parties' in West Bengal whose phones had been put under surveillance, the commission would investigate the matter, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said. File photo   | Photo Credit: PTI

The West Bengal government on Monday set up an inquiry commission, comprising retired Supreme Court judge Madan B. Lokur and former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya, to look into the allegations of snooping on politicians, activists and journalists using the Israeli spyware Pegasus.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Cabinet had approved the appointment of the commission. “Everyone is under surveillance… We had hoped the Centre will start an inquiry into the Pegasus row under the supervision of the Supreme Court. But this government did nothing even when Parliament is in session. Therefore, before going to Delhi, we took the decision to set up an inquiry commission. West Bengal is the first State to set up an inquiry commission in the Pegasus spyware row.”

‘Phones tapped’

Since there were “aggrieved parties” in the State whose phones had been put under surveillance, the commission would investigate the matter, she added.

Explained | Pegasus and the laws on surveillance in India

Last week, she had urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the issue.

The West Bengal government issued a notification for setting up the commission under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 (60 of 1952) to “enquire into and report on inter alia the reported interception and the possession, storage and use of such information collected through such interception, in the hands of state actors and non-state actors.”

The notification said the commission may submit its report embodying the findings and its recommendations thereon to the government report within six months of the notification (July 26).

The announcement of the formation of the panel came just hours before the Chief Minister left for New Delhi.

Ms. Banerjee is likely to remain in the national capital for the next few days, meeting leaders of the Opposition parties. She may also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

The terms of reference of the commission include that it will inquire into the state and non-state actors who were involved in such reported Interception and “to enquire into whether any software such as Pegasus of NSO Group Technologies located at Herzliya, Israel, and/or any spyware and/or malware of any other organisation had been in use and/ or currently being used to conduct such reported Interception”, among others.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 12:05:26 AM |

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