Tharoor questions Speaker’s direction to cancel IT panel meeting

Panel was to take forward discussion on Pegasus spyware breach in WhatsApp

December 11, 2019 10:57 pm | Updated 10:57 pm IST - New Delhi

Shashi Tharoor. File photo: AP

Shashi Tharoor. File photo: AP

Congress leader and Chairman of the Parliamentary Panel on Information and Technology Shashi Tharoor questioned Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla’s direction to cancel a meeting of the committee scheduled for Wednesday.

Mr. Birla, according to the sources, had asked Mr. Tharoor to cancel the meeting citing inability of members to attend due to party whip in the Rajya Sabha for the debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

However, three other committees met on Wednesday.

The IT panel was to take forward the discussion on Pegasus spyware breach in WhatsApp. The last meeting of the panel on the issue saw high drama. The BJP members had tried to stall the discussion claiming that the issue was beyond its purview. The deadlock was resolved only by voting with Mr. Tharoor casting the deciding vote.

“For all who were awaiting news of the meeting of the IT Committee, the Speaker asked me this morning to postpone the meeting in view of a 3-line whip issued by BJP to its Rajya Sabha MPs which would make it impossible for them to attend. I have therefore deferred it to 13th,” Mr. Tharoor said in a tweet.

He said the Speaker had assured him that all the committee meetings for the day had been called off.

“I specifically asked the Speaker whether his request affected all Committee meetings scheduled for today. He assured me it did. I am shocked to learn that the other Committees held their meetings and ours was the only one not allowed to meet. Does the govt. have something to hide?” Mr. Tharoor asked.

S. Prasanna, a cyber security lawyer who was to depose before the committee, flagged this issue on Twitter. “The Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting on IT has been cancelled on the orders of the Speaker. I was due to depose before the committee at 3 pm. Discussion was supposed to be on law and policy on tech & privacy including perhaps the recent WhatsApp #Pegasus case,” he said.

According to sources, Mr. Tharoor has written to the Speaker seeking a clarification.

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