West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on July 26 said that her government has formed a two-member inquiry commission to look into the allegations of snooping on politicians, officials and journalists using Israeli spyware Pegasus.
Former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court Jyotirmay Bhattacharya and ex-Supreme Court judge Madan Bhimrao Lokur are the two members of the government-constituted commission.
The decision to form a panel, with retired judges as its members, was taken at a special cabinet meeting chaired by the chief minister during the day. The notification announcing the inquiry committee was issued by the Additional Secretary of the Government of West Bengal, B P Gopalika on Monday, July 26.
"We thought the Centre would form an inquiry commission or a court-monitored probe would be ordered to look into this phone-hacking incident. But the Centre is sitting idle... So we decided to form a 'commission of inquiry' to look into the matter," she said at a press conference in Kolkata.
"Names of people from West Bengal have figured on the Pegasus target list. The Centre is trying to snoop on everyone. The commission will find out details about this illegal hacking," the CM added.
Also read: Pegasus Project: Former BSF Chief, Senior R&AW and ED Officials and Kejriwal's Aide on List
It should be noted that the CM’s nephew and Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee’s name was also among the list of people reportedly snooped on using the Pegasus spyware. The TMC MP’s number appeared in the list during the West Bengal Assembly elections in 2021.
The France-based journalism non-profit Forbidden Stories had accessed a list of 50,000 numbers, believed to be the potential targets of suspected spying across 10 countries of the world. The revelations, which the media non-profit later shared with 16 media houses, has created a massive political row in India as well as other countries of the globe as the numbers of political leaders, government officials and journalists have been found as potential targets.
However, the central government has been denying the allegations of Opposition in the matter, even though it has not denied the using of Pegasus spyware. On July 19, Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told the Lok Sabha that media reports on alleged snooping published a day before the start of the Monsoon Session of Parliament "cannot be a coincidence" and stressed that there is "no substance" behind the sensationalism.
The issue has been hotly debated in the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament as well. Reportedly, leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, has given adjournment notice to Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Pegasus case and said that Question Hour, Zero Hour and other business should be suspended and there should be a discussion on the matter in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah.
(With PTI inputs)