NEW DELHI: Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday said the Supreme Court cannot be stymied by witnesses’ failure to appear or members refusing to sign attendance register — the means by which — the Congress MP alleged the parliamentary panel on IT was thwarted from looking into the Pegasus issue.
The remarks by the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology came after the Supreme Court-appointed a three-member panel of cyber experts to probe the alleged use of Pegasus spyware for surveillance of certain people in India.
“Supreme Court orders inquiry into GoI’s (Government of India’s) use of Pegasus spyware. Just as well the SC cannot be stymied by the failure of witnesses to appear when summoned, or members refusing to sign the attendance register — the means by which the Parl Cmt was thwarted,” Tharoor tweeted.
The Tharoor-headed IT panel was to hold a meeting on July 28 during which several issues including the Pegasus snooping allegations were expected to be discussed.
It had also summoned officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Communications (Department of Telecommunications) on the subject “Citizens data security and privacy”.
However, the meeting could not take place as the BJP members of the panel did not sign the attendance register, even though they were present in the meeting room, leading to a lack of quorum.
E-mail communications were received by the committee branch of the secretariat on July 28 afternoon from the three ministries/department that their representatives would not be able to appear before the committee due to Parliament-related work. Tharoor had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to take action over ministry officials not attending the panel meeting.
In a significant verdict over the issue of protecting citizens’ right to privacy, a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana asserted that in a democratic country governed by the rule of law, indiscriminate spying on individuals cannot be allowed except with sufficient statutory safeguards by following the procedure established by law under the Constitution.
Stating that it was compelled to take up the cause to determine the truth and get to the bottom of the spying allegations, the SC said the entire citizenry is affected by these charges due to the “potential chilling effect”, lamenting that no clear stand was taken by the Centre regarding actions taken by it over the Pegasus row.