In a complete washout, the Standing Committee on Information Technology headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor could not deliberate on “Citizens’ Data Security and Privacy”, as none of the officials of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MEITy) and the Department of Telecom came for the meeting, citing various reasons for their absence.
A discussion on data security and privacy would have entailed questions on the alleged Pegasus cyberattack on more than 300 persons in India.
The BJP members, on the second consecutive day, staged a walkout refusing to sign the attendance register, forcing the meeting to be cancelled in the absence of quorum.
“@BJP4India members come to the IT Committee & refuse to sign the attendance register to deny a quorum. Further all the witnesses called from MEITY & MHA wrote in excuses & didn’t appear as called to testify. It’s very clear that #Pegasus is a no go area for this government,” one of members and Congress MP Karti Chidambaram tweeted.
The BJP, he said, wants to expunge Pegasus from any debate, scrutiny or enquiry. “What are they so afraid of?”
Sources said that right at the very beginning, the BJP members started protesting. They accused Mr. Tharoor of running the “Congress agenda” and not discussing the subject of meetings with the members before finalising it. This led to a sharp exchange of words between the Opposition and BJP members.
BJP’s Nishikant Dubey complained that TMC’s Mahua Moitra called him “Bihari goonda”, or hoodlum. Addressing Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Mr. Dubey, in a tweet in Hindi, said that in his 13 years as a parliamentarian for the first time he was abused in a meeting of a standing committee. “TMC MP Mahua Moitra thrice called me a “Bihari goonda”,” he said. He also accused Mr. Tharoor of having taken a “contract to end the Parliamentary tradition of standing committees.”
Privilege motion against Tharoor
Earlier in the day, Mr. Dubey gave a notice to move a privilege motion against Mr. Tharoor . In the notice, he said the agenda of the meeting was not discussed with the members. He also alleged that even before it was circulated among the members, Mr. Tharoor announced it to the media.
In response to this, Ms. Moitra said in a tweet that the privilege motion showed the BJP’s desperation to dodge any probe into Pegasus. “Nishikant Dubey files privelege motion against @ShashiTharoor just to prevent IT Committee from grilling MHA on Pegasus. I moved privilege motion against IT Minister on 23/7 for lying in house. How has that not been taken up?”, she stated
On Tuesday, at a meeting of the panel to deliberate on the draft Cinematograph Bill 2021, the BJP members staged a walkout alleging the same issues.