West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday revealed that her government was offered the controversial Pegasus spyware for ₹25 crore., a proposal she had turned down.
“They were selling their machines [software] everywhere. So, they had come to our police also and pitched a price of ₹25 crore. This was four to five years ago. When the information reached me, I said we don’t want it,” the Chief Minister told journalists at the State Secretariat. Ms. Banerjee was responding to a question on whether the company had approached the West Bengal Government.
“If it [Pegasus] was used for the benefit of the country or for security reasons, then it was a different matter altogether, but it has been used for political purposes, against judges, officers, which is not welcome at all,” she alleged. The Chief Minister, while participating in a discussion in the State Assembly on the issue of allocation budget to the Home Department, on Wednesday had said that the Pegasus spyware was offered to her government. She also added that the Andhra Pradesh Government had used the software “during Chandrababu’s (Naidu) time”.
In July 2021, Ms. Banerjee had urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the use of Peagsus spyware and alleged that her phone had been tapped. The Trinamool Congress chairperson had stuck transparent adhesive tape on her mobile phone camera to prove her point. She later alleged that the telephones of her nephew Abhishek Banerjee and political strategist and I-PAC founder Prashant Kishor had also been tapped.
In July 2021, she set up up an inquiry commission into the spyware issue comprising retired Supreme Court judge Madan B. Lokur and former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya. Later, in December 2021, the Supreme Court of India, which is hearing the matter, had stayed the judicial inquiry commissioned by the West Bengal State Government.