Chaos over Pegasus inside Parliament

Chaos over Pegasus inside Parliament
A view of the Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, Thursday. (RSTV)
NEW DELHI, JUL 22 | Publish Date: 7/22/2021 12:54:28 PM IST

 TMC MP snatches I-T minister’s Snoopgate statement and tears it in Rajya Sabha

A Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP snatched papers from Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday and tore them as the Pegasus snooping row turned ugly.

As the proceedings in the Upper House descended into chaos, Shantanu Sen, who targeted the Communications and Information Technology Minister as he was making a statement on the snooping issue, also alleged that Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri abused him in the House and was on the verge of physically assaulting him before he was rescued by colleagues. Sen also claimed that Puri even rudely gesticulated at him.

Official sources said the government will seek action against some Opposition MPs who allegedly misbehaved with the treasury bench members in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday after TMC member’s act.

Sources said some Opposition MPs “misbehaved” with the treasury bench members, including a minister, even after the House was adjourned.

While BJP president J P Nadda accused the opposition of creating “obstacles” in the country’s development journey by disrupting Parliament to “save” its political existence, Union Minister Meenakshi Lekhi condemned the conduct of the opposition members as a “new low” in India’s parliamentary democracy.

Opposition parties have stalled proceedings in Parliament alleging the union government’s involvement in the alleged snooping following reports that nearly 300 mobile phone numbers including of journalists, activists, opposition leaders and even of union ministers from India figured in this list of potential snooping targets by Israel’s NSO group which sells its Pegasus spyware only to “vetted” governments and government agencies.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed that the alleged snooping using the Pegasus spyware was “worse than the Watergate scandal” which erupted in the US during the Nixon presidency. 

An AICC statement said that Pradesh Congress Committees held protest marches in different states demanding an impartial inquiry monitored by the Supreme Court and the resignation of Home Minister Amit Shah.

In the Rajya Sabha, the TMC, Congress and other opposition party members, who had earlier forced two adjournments of the proceedings, rushed to the well of the House as Minister Vaishnaw was called to make a statement on the snooping controversy.

Shantanu Sen snatched the papers from the hands of the minister, tore and flung them in the air, prompting the minister to stop making the statement after reading a few lines amid the ruckus and say he was laying a copy on the table of the House.

Deputy Chairman Harivansh asked the members to desist from unparliamentary behaviour, before adjourning the proceedings of the House for the day. 

He said the minister has laid the statement on the table of the House and asked if the MPs want to ask him any questions on that. But the opposition MPs continued to raise slogans against the snooping controversy. The statement that the minister laid on the table of the House was similar to the one he had made on July 19 in the Lok Sabha, a day after the reports of alleged snooping emerged.

Representatives of the Press Club of India, Editors Guild of India, Indian Women’s Press Corps, Press Association, Delhi Union of Journalists along with some eminent media personalities demanded at a news conference that the government should launch a probe into the Pegasus spyware case and come clean on the issue.

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